Reading to a child. “The albatross is a very cool bird”

A quarter of a century or so ago I read a book to my daughter every night without fail before she went to sleep.  I enjoyed the outings with her to the local library to choose books as we worked our way through our favourite children’s authors.  I learnt that books for reading to young girls had to have good pictures as well as good words.  I even wrote a story for children myself, although to this day it remains un-illustrated.  I mention my own attempt only because it contains an ACAP-listed species, the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus.

In my unpublished story Wilfred is leader of the Macronectes Gang and, quite frankly, is a bit of a thug. He causes a near riot one Friday evening in the Tropicalis Inn on Marion Island when Fishy Breath (a fur seal) gets a bit too familiar with the story’s heroine.  Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans get into my story indirectly when the heroine and her friends wend their way home from the pub singing as they go the plaintive island refrain:

            “Wanderers in the mire, exchanging glances,

Wanderers in the mire, wondering what are the chances…”

All of the above discursion is by way of introducing a book review of “Where Albatross Soar”, written by Brian Knowles and illustrated by Sherwin Mina.

The book is a largish-format paperback of 34 pages that is also available electronically as an e-book.  In the book’s story a father sits with his young son on a beach and tells him (in rhyme) where the waves come from:  “They start far out to sea, where the albatross soar”.

The story line is actually more about big storms at sea than about albatrosses but it does end with a page entitled “A is for Albatross” that gives 10 facts to pass onto the child, my favourite being No. 6: “They do a special dance to impress a mate”.

What of the illustrations?  The storm is certainly dramatic enough – and colourful - although personally I prefer a crisper line in illustrations for children.  The albatross is great, however, wearing an old-fashioned leather flying helmet and looking a tad goofy.  I suspect it is modelled on a Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis but the bright red bill tip is confusing.  However a black & white version at the back of the book invites the use of crayons:

“”I flew all day and night, until my feathers turned white,

Can you help color me?”

So if you are a marine ornithologist (or just keen on albatrosses) with a child of pre-reading age you might like to try this one.  It will not take long to read out and you can linger over the ‘”albatross fun facts” and remind yourself (and inform your child) as the book has it that “The albatross is a very cool bird”.


Laysan Albatross, photographed by Pete Leary

Click here to access more children’s books on ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.


Knowles, B. & Mina, S. 2012.  Where Albatross Soar.  A Beachside Story of Waves & Storms.  San Clemente: Swell Read Books.  Not paginated.  ISBN 978-0-615-63220-9.


John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 September 2013

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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