"More information about penguins than I care to have"

From Futility Closet:
In 1944 a children’s book club sent a volume about penguins to a 10-year-old girl, enclosing a card seeking her opinion. She wrote, “This book gives me more information about penguins than I care to have.” American diplomat Hugh Gibson called it the finest piece of literary criticism he had ever read.


  1. I’m not sure where you are coming from or going to with this. It sounds like a ‘determined to be dumb ‘ valley girl stereotype. Your diplomat Hugh Gibson is dead wrong.
    By the way, the finest piece of literary criticism is from the Times of London many years ago, I paraphrase, “For those that like this sort of thing, here is more of the same.”

  2. I was sort of let down by this post. I was hoping to find out what the book actually was and to read a little article about the girl’s letter. Instead, it’s less than an anecdote. Is this real or made up?

    1. The club owner here hooks me up with drugs, like cocaine or pot brownies. But last time I was in town he gave me a drug for attention deficit disorder, because he’s afflicted. But I’m not, so what happened to me was I suddenly had an extra-long attention span. People would be telling me a story, then the story would end and I’d get all mad and shit. “Come on man, there’s gotta be more to that story!”
      – Mitch Hedberg

  3. It sounds so random. They just… sent this book. About penguins. Unprovoked. The girl acted in self-defense. 

  4. Since we’re on the subject, I highly recommend scrounging up a copy of H. Allen Smith’s classic Write Me A Poem, Baby, which is a collection of children’s writing like this. Yes, it includes the penguin review. One of my personal favorites:

    Once upon a time there was a turkey. That turkey had an enemy. This enemy was a man. One day they had a fight and the man won.

  5. Too prolix for a ten year old. Sounds like it was written by a diplomat. The way I heard it fifty years ago, the girl wrote: “This book tells me more about penguins than I want to know.”

    There, I fixed that.

  6. Is this an objection to the quantity of information, or the specifics? I want to know. I feel disappointed.

  7. I usually like to weigh in on penguin related matters here at BB but I too am just left desiring more information about the case.

    Though I must say that while I enjoy seeing penguins at aquariums, I tend to not actually be inordinately interested at learning all the details about them, or hearing about them when they do feedings. It doesn’t help that the presentations are apparently aimed at 5-year-olds and are not intellectually satisfying.

    Aquariums do provide adult-oriented education programs (such as an excellent short lecture I saw at Monterey recently) but have dumbed-down the rest of the place, just as zoos and science museums have.

    Clearly I’m interested in penguins, but when I watch the penguin feeding demonstrations aquariums do (which I’ve done at several different aquariums around the country) it usually only takes a few minutes before I feel like this girl (reportedly) felt – I lose all interest.

    So this clearly could be a legitimate criticism of the book – especially at the time I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t a particularly engaging book for kids (or anyone else).

  8. In my family, when one of us has been talking on a subject for too long and realizes it, it’s usual to say “I guess that’s more than you wanted to know about penguins.” I never knew where that came from, so thanks!

  9. I Think, that if a book on penguins was really comprehensive, then “more than I want to know” would be a note of praise. Depends on if it’s a 12 page book or a 1200 page book.

Comments are closed.