Title: A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

Author: Suzanne Lewis

Illustrator: Lisa Anchin

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Year: 2015



Story Element #5 THEME    Theme is generally thought of as the topic of a story. It can usually be summed up in just one or two word (new baby, moving, friendship, first day of school, hard work, forgiveness, sharing etc.) Themes are global feelings or characteristics that can be grouped together in large categories, but which can take on many different forms in storytelling. So if you’re looking for a book with a particular theme, say bullying, you can find several books which address that particular theme. 

Many children’s books give a clue to the theme right on the cover. This one is no different. We can see from the title and the picture this is about a penguin named Patience who survived Hurricane Katrina. Right away we figure it’s about patience and survival.

Most stories have multiple themes. There are major and minor themes. In A Penguin Named Patience the major themes are certainly patience and survival. Minor themes are friendship, hope, trust, and celebration.

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed parts of New Orleans, other parts of the city were affected as well. Many places were flooded when levees burst. Others lost electricity for hours, days, and even weeks. One of those places was the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, home to Patience and many other aquatic animals.

Patience was the oldest penguin in the aquarium and she felt it was her job to keep all the others in line, but it was dark and dangerously hot in the aquarium. Patience didn’t think she could last much longer. Then she saw a flashlight shining and her friend, Tom. Tom worked to cool the penguins as much as possible. He fed them and stayed with them until arrangements were made to send them away. Patience was afraid of leaving her home, but Tom promised that he would help them get settled and bring them back as soon as he could. Nineteen penguins were shipped to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Tom stayed with the penguins in Monterey until they were out of quarantine. Then he had to say good-bye. Patience was sad to see him leave, but she was happy to be in a cool aquarium again and she was making new friends.  It took nine months to repair their aquarium in New Orleans, but when it was ready, Tom returned to take Patience and the other eighteen penguins home again. FedEx flew the penguins home and when they arrived FedEx rolled out a carpet and had a marching band playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ as Patience and the rest of the penguins paraded into their new home.

Sometimes the theme of the story can be summed up as the moral of the story. In A Penguin Named Patience, the moral of the story might be ‘Good things will happen if you have trust and patience.’

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14 Responses to “Patience”

  1. Christie Wright Wild February 22, 2015 at 12:34 AM #

    Awww… how SWEET! I’d never even heard this story. No wonder it was published. Thanks for sharing.


    • Juliana Lee February 22, 2015 at 10:33 AM #

      It’s brand new Christie. I keep an eye out for the newest releases at my library and try to get them quickly.


  2. Lindsay Bonilla (@LindsayBonilla) February 19, 2015 at 12:03 PM #

    Wow! I love Patience already. As Laura said, you often don’t think about the animals that are affected in a crisis. My favorite detail is that the penguins returned home to a full band playing, “When the Saints Came Marching In.”


  3. Sydney O'Neill February 19, 2015 at 11:56 AM #

    Great explanation of theme! Patience’s story parallels that of so many people.


    • Juliana Lee February 19, 2015 at 5:10 PM #

      Thanks. And, you’re right, it does parallel that of many people. I think for the youngest readers, it’s good to talk about these subjects from an animal’s perspective. It might be too frightening for little ones to read about people going through this experience. But if you have an older reader, I would recommend UPSIDE DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.


  4. Joyce Tucker February 18, 2015 at 8:25 PM #

    Katrina certainly touched every part of New Orleans…this is another example. But I love how patience was needed before they could return.


    • Juliana Lee February 19, 2015 at 5:11 PM #

      I agree, and wasn’t it brilliant to use Patience as the name of the penguin?


  5. lauraboffa February 18, 2015 at 4:14 PM #

    What an amazing story! That’s one Katrina survival story that never even crossed my mind, and, like Linda said, one that would definitely interest kids. I love the description of their grandiose return to New Orleans.


    • Juliana Lee February 19, 2015 at 5:12 PM #

      Some of the back matter explains the story in more detail. Unfortunately a lot of animals died waiting to be rescued.


  6. SevenAcreSky February 18, 2015 at 3:51 PM #

    I like the theme and premise here. Survival based on devotion of others who care…great theme and great example Juliana. Thanks!


    • Juliana Lee February 19, 2015 at 5:20 PM #

      It’s a very strong theme for children, but a good one, I agree.


  7. Linda E.H. February 18, 2015 at 3:00 PM #

    the story sounds like a good one. This is a different angle to hurricane survivors and one that kids will be immediately drawn to. I mean, what kid doesn’t love cute little penguins? And the illustrations look adorable. I wish our library had this book.


    • Juliana Lee February 19, 2015 at 5:22 PM #

      Yes, I think it’s wise to enter some tough subjects one step away from the readers. Sometimes it’s easier for them to read about animals in need rather than people.


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