Review: Where The Heart Is
How far would you go for love? If you’re a Magellanic penguin who has imprinted on a kind old man, the answer could be thousands of miles. Where The Heart Is is a gentle tale of findings and belongings inspired by the real life story of Dindim, the tiny oil-stricken penguin found by Joao Pereira de Souza off the coast of Brazil in 2011.
This rendition follows the facts closely beginning with Dindim’s salvation by Joao who cleans, feeds and nurtures him back to good health. As a tremendous show of gratitude, Dindim decides to stay and even after being relocated to an island offshore, promptly heads back to Joao’s beachside dwelling for a touching reunion. It is not until Dindim undergoes his first moult and dons his adult plumage that he suddenly decides to leave.
In real life, no one knows for sure where this dapper little seabird goes but in Gold’s version, he makes the arduous sea journey back to coastal Patagonia, the breeding grounds of his fellow penguins. Life in the colony is filled with play and fields of fish. Dindim prospers but his heart years to return to the kind humble heartiness of Joao so he makes the treacherous journey back to Joao’s beach on Ilha Grande off Rio de Janerio. This touching tale may have ended here except for one incredible footnote: each year Dindim visits Joao and stays with him for up eight months before heading off again.
Gold’s narrative is suffused with factual snippets yet possesses enough fearsome foes, like a gigantic penguin-eating sea lion, to keep Dindim on the tippy toes of his little webbed feet. When he finally makes it back to Joao’s lap, the obvious joy and love the two share for each other radiate through the sweet narrative as well as Susannah Crispe’s comely illustrations. Soft shades of green and south Atlantic blues grace each page providing cheerful contrast to Dindim’s monochromatic antics. This truly is a picture book to savour and cherish made all the more special because of its genesis.
The story behind the story invites discussions about environmental and habitat destruction, friendship, loyalty, and unique animal human relationships which earns it a place in classrooms as well as home libraries. A lovely tastefully told story based on contemporary history and humanity.
The Heart Is
Author: Irma Gold
Illustrator: Susannah Crispe
Publisher: EK Books, $24.99
Publication Date: June 2021
For ages: 4 – 6
Type: Picture Book