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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adélies, And Chinstraps, And Gentoos, Oh My!, June 9, 2007
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This review is from: Waiting to Fly: My Escapades With The Penguins Of Antarctica (Paperback)
Ron Naveen has an amazing amount of experience working with brushtail penguins (adélie, gentoo, and chinstrap) in Antarctica, and this book is his account of his years of work there. Like Naveen, I am a biologist by education (though I am a mammalogist, not an ornithologist), and have a deep appreciation for fieldwork with these magnificent animals. Naveen is definitely an expert in his field, and I recommend this book to anyone serious about understand penguin habitation, reproduction, and lifestyle, but not as much to the casual reader, who may find it a bit detail-oriented.

The book largely follows one season's worth of research with highlights from other experiences intermingled within the various chapters. The book is quite detailed, to the degree, for instance, that he analyzes what penguins are eating by the color of their guano. In fact penguin guano is a key element of this book, and something of a recurring theme. This brings me to my major issue with the book. While the information is generally excellent and is certainly authoritative, I wavered on a three versus four star review because of the repetition and sometimes muddled organization in the book. Much of the subject matter is repeatedly reinforced to the point of monotony (the guano discussions are excellent examples). In a book on algebra, for instance, repetition is important for learning and retention of complex new ideas, while it is probably unnecessary to repeatedly cover how penguin guano smells. (We get it.)

Having said that, the book does reveal a lot about the lives of these fascinating birds, and I am glad that I read it. I decided on a four star review because of the occasionally sublime passages in the book, my favorite of which involves a gentoo chick in the Aitcho Islands hopping in Naveen's lap for a prolonged rest. While the book does have some drawbacks, on balance I think it's a worthwhile read, especially for people interested in penguins or Antarctica.
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