The Emperor Lays an Egg

Brenda Z. Guiberson, Illustrated by Joan Paley

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Follow as a penguin grows from egg to adulthood in the coldest place on earth.

In the middle of winter, in the coldest place on earth, the mother emperor penguin lays her egg. The father rolls the egg onto his feet and keeps it warm. He doesn't eat or even move for two whole months. Finally the egg hatches.

The penguin chick is a tiny ball of gray fluff. The parents have to work hard to get enough food for their baby. The hungry father travels to the ocean to fish.
When the short summer comes to Antarctica, the chick grows a shiny coat of black and white feathers. Now it can take its first swim. And the parents fatten themselves up for winter, the long icy season when the emperor penguin lays its egg.

Stunning collages of handpainted paper and clear, evocative text capture the beauty and drama of the icy Antarctic world and one of its most fascinating and endearing inhabitants.


Praise for The Emperor Lays an Egg

"Guiberson's vivid prose fleshes out the bare bones of the penguin's life cycle.... Paley's collages of painted and cut papers provide exceptionally beautiful scenes."
--Booklist (Starred Review)

"In addition to the well-researched and well-organized text, most pages utilize onomatopoeia that is sure to be enjoyed by young readers.... Guiberson's book is sure to delight readers."
--School Library Journal

"The passing of the seasons and the maturing of the penguin young are told in language both poetic and gripping. Paley's stunning collages, made from her own hand-painted paper, depict adorably chubby penguins set against a haunting, icy landscape of blue, purple, turquoise, gray and rose."
--Children's Literature

"school and public libraries will find this title useful for elementary school science reports, and nature lovers will love the pictures."
--Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Brenda Z. Guiberson, Illustrated by Joan Paley

  • Brenda Z. Guiberson has written many books for children, including Cactus Hotel, Spoonbill Swamp, Moon Bear and Disasters. As a child, Brenda never thought she wanted to be a writer—her dreams tended more toward jungle explorer. She graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in English and Fine Art. She started thinking about writing for children when her son went to elementary school, and she volunteered in his class and in the school library. After taking exciting trips that involved a fifty-foot cactus, hungry alligators and sunset-colored spoonbills, she wanted to create books for children that would be like a field trip. Her books are full of well-researched detail, and Brenda sees this research as an adventure—one that allows her to be a jungle explorer at last. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
    Joan Paley is the illustrator of Unbeatable Beaks and several other books for children. She created the collages in this book by cutting shapes from paper that she hand painted. Ms. Paley lives with her husband in North Scituate, Massachusetts.
  • Brenda Z. Guiberson Mary M. Gallagher


Available Formats and Book Details

The Emperor Lays an Egg

Brenda Z. Guiberson, Illustrated by Joan Paley

  • Trade Paperback


  • Hardcover



Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)