BOOK REVIEW: Penguin Bloom – The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom & Bradley Trevor Greive
BOOK REVIEW: Penguin Bloom – The odd little bird who saved a family by Cameron Bloom & Bradley Trevor Greive
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Penguin Bloom is an extraordinary true story full of hope and courage, featuring Cameron Bloom’s exceptional photographs and a captivating narrative by New York Times bestselling author Bradley Trevor Greive.
Penguin the Magpie is a global social media sensation. People the world over have fallen in love with the stunning and deeply personal images of this rescued bird and her human family. But there is far more to Penguin’s story than meets the eye. It begins with a shocking accident, in which Cameron’s wife, Sam, suffers a near fatal fall that leaves her paralysed and deeply depressed.
That such a fiercely free and passionate spirit could now be anchored beyond our love by pain and a steel chair was too much for us to bear.
I sought advice and support wherever I could, but nothing seemed to help.
I was slowly but surely losing the love of my life.
And then Penguin arrived.
Into their lives comes Penguin, an injured magpie chick abandoned after she fell from her nest. Penguin’s rescue and the incredible joy and strength she gives Sam and all those who helped her survive demonstrates that, however bleak things seem, compassion, friendship and support can come from unexpected quarters, ensuring there are always better days ahead. This plucky little magpie reminds us all that, no matter how lost, fragile or damaged we feel, accepting the love of others and loving them in return will help to make us whole.
Everything about this book is just beautiful. It’s part animal story, part family struggle against awful circumstances, part motivational tale, part love story.
Cameron Bloom’s love for his wife bleeds through in the writing of this book, and the perfect use of pictures ensured that, before long, this reviewer was more than a little teary. But it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact there are plenty of laughs to be had, and the overall feeling of positivity and being able to overcome the worst if you have the right people in your life and the right attitude will ensure that you come out of this book with a smile on your face, feeling genuinely uplifted.
This story is so artfully put together, with a prologue to give us back story, an epilogue to share what’s happened since, and a letter from Sam herself, written to people with spinal injuries similar to the one she suffered and the people who love them.
The pages in between are simply gorgeous, allowing the reader an insight into this unique family, and into the things one might expect when nursing a wild baby bird back to health.
We get to see how Penguin made herself completely at home
How she went through an awkward, gangly faze when her adult feathers came in… a phase her family liked to call the “Goth period”.
How she looked after her brothers and made sure they were looking after their teeth.
How, even after she started spending more time outside, she would sneak in for snuggles in bed.
We try our best to make sure she sleeps on her frangipani perch, but if we ever leave the window open she’ll zip inside the house at sunrise, scamper down the hallway to one of the bedrooms like an overexcited velociraptor and leap onto the covers for a bonus sleep-in.
It’s all just gorgeous.
But the best part of this book, my favourite part of the book, is when the author is talking about how the spinal injury affected their family, but specifically how it affected Sam, and uses images of Penguin that signify those hardships.
When wanting to believe the whole thing must surely be a bad dream, and feeling completely overwhelmed:
When talking about how you can’t even begin to tabulate the cost of the accident on the family, in terms of the things that consumed Sam’s will to live and exhausted the family’s emotional reserves:
And Sam not wanting anyone to see her in the constant state of pain, fury and regret in which she found herself stuck:
Using Penguin to portray these moods helps to lighten the situation a little, but will also resonate deeply with those who suffer from injuries or other disabilities, physical or mental. These people are stuck in a state of feeling like the people around them don’t understand, and who better to represent these people than a bird named after a seabird living with a family of humans?
Penguin both represents these people who feel alone and offers them a kind of comfort; she both relates to what they’re going through, and shows them that there are good things to be found with the people you love.
This is a must have book for animal lovers and for anyone who has ever gone through hardships or found it hard to face the day.
The creators of the book are each donating 10% of royalties to SpinalCure Australia who are working to stop these kinds of injuries from being a lifelong stressor. The publisher, Harper Collins Australia, has agreed to match these royalty donations.
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