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Torquay penguins inspire novel

Living Coasts in Torquay, famous for its penguins, has helped inspire a novelist to write a book featuring penguins, and it is published by Penguin Press.

The novel, by Exmoor-based writer Hazel Prior, is called Away With The Penguins. Living Coasts senior keeper, Jason Keller, helped Hazel with her research into hand-rearing baby penguins.

Away With The Penguins has been described as a life-affirming adventure featuring a cranky older lady and a lot of very engaging penguins. Living Coasts spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “We’re used to people carrying out research here, but it’s usually for science projects, not novels.”

Hazel explained: “I paid several visits to Living Coasts while I was writing Away With The Penguins. Books and the internet were useful for research, of course, but nothing beats meeting real life penguins.

“I couldn’t quite manage a trip to Antarctica, but I could manage a trip to Torquay. At Living Coasts, you can get really close to the penguins, and it’s a joy to watch them playing, eating, swimming, arguing and just waddling about. The penguin patrollers kindly shared lots of penguin anecdotes with me.”

She also consulted Living Coasts’ senior keeper, Jason Keller, who helped her get her penguin facts right: “Jason has experience of hand-rearing a baby penguin, which was incredibly useful because there’s an orphaned penguin chick who plays a major role in my story.”

As well as being a fun read about a very feisty, elderly heroine (Veronica McCreedy) and her Antarctic adventure, Away With The Penguins has an important underlying message about caring for our world. Hazel: “Living Coasts is dedicated to conservation, so we have a common purpose in supporting wildlife, especially penguins!”

Both Jason and Living Coasts penguin patroller Lauren Taylor are acknowledged in the book. Away With The Penguins can be bought in the Living Coasts shop, in good bookshops, and on Amazon. Hazel Prior is a prize-winning writer who also plays the harp, runs workshops for authors and gives quirky talks with harp accompaniment.

For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 01803 202470.

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