Flipper and Finnegan by Sophie Cunningham

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

People of all ages who value our wildlife will undoubtedly love the story of Flipper and Finnegan.

Based on the events following the oil spill off Phillip Island in Victoria in 2001, it focuses on two little penguins who belong to the smallest of this species of bird.

Unsuspecting of the perils of the oil slick, they dived and swam in the ocean as usual, but emerged from the waves and wobbled ashore, blackened by the oil. Soon they were cold and threatened by sickness resulting from their attempting to clean their feathers.

Sophie Cunningham, a gifted children’s writer as well as being a fine adult’s author, has excelled once again in her tale of this pair.

The two little penguins were captured by rangers working at the sanctuary, cleaned, and clothed in bright woolly jumpers. This grew into an international effort, with people of all ages knitting colourful woolies for the hundreds of stricken birds. Eventually, this came to number in the thousands.  It was a brilliant united effort that saved the lives of so many of these little birds. In fact, we’re told, a total of 100,000 jumpers were delivered to the sanctuary!

The illustrations by Anil Tortop are beautiful and realistic but retain a cuteness that many both young and old would find irresistible.

Sophie Cunningham skillfully combines fact and story. For example, we learn that these amphibious birds have 10,000 feathers, which make them streamlined and, more importantly, maintain a comfortable body temperature.

Readers know that it is a true story when they see photos of the actual jumpers on the dashing little penguins, looking cosy and content, in the final pages.

Not only is the book a tale with a happy outcome, but it is a reminder of how human beings can rescue distressed animals – sometimes in surprising ways. In Flipper and Finnegan’s case, sadly, man’s error was responsible for the disaster.

During Covid, made possible by a streaming service worldwide, countless numbers watched the Penguin Parade nightly, when the penguins leave the waters of Port Phillip Bay, amble up the dunes and rocks to nest and breed.

It brightened the misery of lockdowns for many.

It still attracts hundreds of eager lovers of wildlife, particularly penguins, nightly. It all takes place just 90 minutes from Melbourne.

Flipper and Finnegan


by Sophie Cunningham

Allen and Unwin

ISBN 978 176118 007 1

$19.99; 28pp



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