Follow Us on Twitter

March of the Penguins - Luc Jacquet

March of the Penguins

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

Many of you will already be familiar with March of the Penguins from last year’s extraordinary film. Now comes the book, the film’s official companion and, as you might expect, it’s an absolute delight.

However, for the uninitiated March of the Penguins is the story of the emperor penguin and the remarkable journey it must undertake in order to breed.

It’s a journey that begins in March (gives a different slant on the title, doesn’t it?) when hundreds of these remarkable birds leave the relatively warm ocean waters of Antarctica and head inland to the most inhospitable place on earth – Antarctica in the depths of winter.

The book, like the film, chronicles that journey and the ensuing events. The result is a tale of truly epic proportions – one that outshines even the most elaborate work of fiction.

From Jordan Roberts’ illuminating text, we learn about courtship; the laying of one single precious egg and its life or death exchange from female to male; and of the long two month incubation period, during which time, the male survives without food of any kind (there simply isn’t any).

And, as with all good tales, there’s an element of suspense – here, in the form of a desperate race against time as first the female, and then the male, waddle back to the sea and return with food for the hungry chick.

As for the chick, not only is it subjected to temperatures 70 degrees below freezing, but is itself, a potential meal for one of the predatory giant petrels that wait at the colony’s fringes, ready to snatch any fledgling that strays within reach.

The whole is supported by Jerome Maison’s beautiful images which are themselves a labour of love; the result of 13 months spent on the ice in the same unforgiving enviroment as the birds themselves.

In fact, March of the Penguins is almost as much Maison and filmmaker Luc Jaquet’s story as it is the penguins’. The final section, simply entitled Making the Film, is a fascinating insight into the hardships and isolation endued by the two men and their crew.

March of the Penguins is, undoubtedly, a lovely book. It’s well presented on fine quality paper, and at the turning of a page, transports the reader to a part of the world very few can ever hope to see for themselves.

It also well and truly puts life in perspective. Never again will I moan when stuck in a supermarket check-out queue.

A DVD is also available from May 8, 2006. Read our review