The Unusual Penguin received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.
Following find an interview with author Madeleine MacRae.
What is the name of the book and when was it published?
The Unusual Penguin by Madeleine MacRae was released in March of 2023.
What’s the book’s first line?
As I was out walking one bright sunny day,
I bumped into something that was blocking my way.
What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.
This is a story of self-discovery that follows the journey of a misfit penguin who feels out of place in his Antarctic home. He’s terrible at all things the other penguins love and he’s so clumsy and strange that he starts to get left out and pushed aside. As self-doubt and sadness creep in, his once joyful and eager spirit seems to be dampened and dimmed. It isn’t until he catches a glimpse of an eagle flying overhead that things start to change. In one magnificent moment of realization, he knows who he is and, just as importantly, who he isn’t.
This is a celebration of the joy and the freedom that a person can find when they discover who they truly are, embrace all of it and stop trying to live up to external expectations.
As you follow the poetry from page to page, get ready to take flight in this inspirational story that encourages you to embrace who you are and to love and respect your roots no matter where they may have been planted.
What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?
I grew up feeling different from other people. One day, I was chatting with friends, and discussing all of the different analogies that people use to describe this feeling, specifically the ugly duckling. I always felt that the story didn’t jive with my experience – I didn’t transform from an unattractive creature into a beautiful one. I just grew into myself and when I discovered who I was, it was very liberating. I had this conversation when my son was only about three years old and my friends said that if I felt that way, it was likely he would as well and encouraged me to write my story. Over the five years that it took to go from idea to fully developed, rhyming story, we discovered that he is on the autism spectrum. I went through the journey of him struggling immensely in school so, those elements are woven into this story. It is our combined experience that has produced this lovely book.
What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?
This book is for anyone who has ever felt “different” or out of step with peers – I think that’s most of us at one time or another. The experience can be so incredibly painful, but it can also be a gift if it leads to self-knowledge. This is especially important for kids. If not dealt with early on, they can carry the pain of being different for a lifetime. I hope that each person who hears or reads this story recognizes that they have something very special within themselves, something unique, and entirely their own. I hope that those who are atypical walk away feeling seen and loved and empowered to fly high and shine brightly. I want them to know they can be themselves without losing their place in the tribe.
What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?
This story is narrated by the mother who observes her struggling son. She never gives up on him, and empathizes with his very real sense of sorrow and pain. They both rejoice with a sense of relief and wonder when he finds his true nature. The book is wonderful in expressing a range of real emotions, and that authenticity resonates with both kids and adults.
Is this the first book you’ve written?
Yes, The Unusual Penguin is my first book. I’m currently working on a personal development book for adults. The first draft is complete and I hope to be able to launch it by the end of summer. I’m toying with another children’s story called The Uncertain Butterfly. Hopefully this one won’t take me 5 years.
Why did you pick a penguin as the object of your story?
The first analogy that I had was feeling like an eagle who grew up among chickens but chickens didn’t feel very beloved. They also didn’t do justice to the incredible people that I grew up around and that I have to thank for helping shape me into the person I am today. Penguins are wonderful social creatures that people adore.. Their desire to huddle, to be close together, to work in a community, and to stay close to the ground felt like the perfect juxtaposition to the eagle who wants to spread his wings and fly.
You mentioned that you have a son with ASD. How has this influenced your writing?
I really wanted him to see himself in the story, to feel seen and understood. His autism has made me a more patient and compassionate person, and those qualities certainly found their way into the poetry as I wrote it. It took five years to bring this book from concept to completion. The patience that I learned through my son played itself out in this process as well.