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The Puffin project

A photo from “Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock.”handout

The Puffin project

After teaching ornithology at a Maine camp in the summer of 1969, Stephen W. Kress grew obsessed with bringing puffins back to the state. He was young, yes, but was he foolish? He knew it would be difficult. As the new book “Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock” (Yale) states, “The project began with the knowledge that no seabird had ever been restored to an island where humans had wiped them out.”

Atlantic puffins once had been so heavily hunted for food and feathers that the population in Maine was down to one pair by 1902. Today more than 1,000 puffin pairs are nesting on Maine islands, and tourists bearing binoculars take boat trips out to watch them.


The rebounding population was accomplished through determination. Kress, now the National Audubon Society’s vice president for bird conservation, prevailed upon funders to continue backing the project and, along with a cadre of research assistants he calls “puffineers,’’ helped the puffin chicks survive.

The success described in “Project Puffin,” co-authored by Kress and Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson, is tempered by an acknowledgment of the challenges climate change presents. Kress now realizes that the puffin population won’t survive without continuing human intervention because gulls and other predators are so abundant. On this subject, the book quotes Canadian seabird researcher Tony Diamond, “It’s time somebody played God after our predecessors played the devil for so long.”

Jackson will narrate a slideshow of his images at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the New England Aquarium, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cambridge Public Library, and at 7 p.m. May 18 at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. Kress will speak at the event Tuesday. Jackson will be displaying images at his house for Cambridge Open Studios May 9-10. Check the city’s website for details.


Transition magazine

For a deep dive into new African fiction, pick up the new issue of Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora, founded in Uganda in 1961 and now published in the heart of Harvard Square. Transition, published by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, is holding a launch party at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Harvard Book Store. There will be a reading of poetry and fiction from the issue.

Book deal for local teacher

Kristy Acevedo, a Massachusetts high school English teacher, has landed a book deal for her young-adult science-fiction novel, “Consider.” She did it with a tweet. In March she tweeted: “If a hologram said it could save your life, would you believe it?” Her tweet was in response to the # PITMad hashtag that four times a year invites writers to tweet about their finished manuscripts. If a book publisher favorites a writer’s tweet, that’s an invitation to submit the manuscript. Jolly Fish Press in Utah not only bought Acevedo’s manuscript but signed her to a two-book deal. Acevedo and fellow honorees Alice Caldwell and Sheryl DePaolo will read from their work during PEN New England’s 17th annual Children’s Book Discovery Evening at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Simmons College. Winning manuscripts are presented for consideration to editors at children’s book publishers.

Coming out

 “Pedro” by Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

 “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough (Simon and Schuster)

 “The Seven Sisters” by Lucinda Riley (Atria)

Pick of the week

Nancy Solberg of Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley recommends “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday): “While it follows the friendships between four talented young men as they mature and develop successful careers, it is Jude who will capture your attention and your heart. This challenging novel is an intensely sympathetic portrayal of a deep, life-long depression and broken spiritedness that most authors shy away from.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.