Our Burning Planet


Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs teaches young readers about the thriving False Bay ecosystem

Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs teaches young readers about the thriving False Bay ecosystem
Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs teaches young readers about the thriving False Bay ecosystem. (Photograph: Supplied by the author)

A new educational children’s book is set in coastal Cape Town and shines a spotlight on local ocean life. It's an inspiring, charming read – here's an extract.

Sandi, Brownie and Lucy are living the dream. Together with their humans, they’ve been on some fabulous adventures, including having gone to sea over one hundred times. 

In Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs, by Monique Fallows, they tell the stories of all the creatures of False Bay in a fun yet educational storybook that introduces children to the importance of healthy ecosystems on Earth. 

Read an extract from the book below.


Chapter 5 – A bird that sounds just like a donkey!

“Hello, African penguin, we are Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs!” I say in a warm greeting. It’s important to create a good impression when meeting a new species for the first time. 

Being of fur, and the penguin being of feather, I am not sure the penguin will understand us. I look deep into the penguin’s eyes, and the penguin looks deeply back into mine. 

A strange feeling washes over me and I feel my sixth sense kick in. All living beings have a sixth sense and we animals use it all the time. 

However, we’ve never met a truly wild animal before so I wasn’t sure my sixth sense would work. I am delighted that the penguin seems to understand me and replies with an equally friendly greeting.

“Sea-going dogs! This is the best day ever! And of course we can understand you. This is because we are all part of the natural world.”

Lucy is the friendliest dog there ever was, and I can see how happy she is to hear this. She grabs her opportunity to chat with a real penguin for the very first time. 

Knowing how wet she gets when she plays at the beach, she cannot believe how dry this bird is. 

She asks, “Penguin, how are you so dry when you only just popped out of the water a second ago?” 

The penguin replies, “Our feathers are coated in a special oil. This keeps our feathers waterproof and our skin dry. Because of this we can stay warm while underwater for a long time.” 

“That’s a really cool trick,” says Lucy. “But why do you have to stay underwater for a long time?” 

“We penguins hunt for fish to eat so that we stay strong and healthy,” replies the penguin. 

I think about this for a second. 

“You mean you don’t have someone who gives you a bowl of food each morning, like Monique gives us?” I ask in surprise. 

The penguin’s eyes go wide and it exclaims in wonder, “Well, pluck my feathers! You are lucky creatures indeed! If we wild penguins want to eat, we have to catch the food ourselves. We spend hours and hours at sea each day hunting food, just to survive.”

The penguin gives us a long look and asks, “Would you like to try a bit of the food I work so hard to catch?” 

Taking our silence as a yes, the penguin launches itself off the side of the boat and disappears for a few minutes. 

I look around in confusion. 

Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs teaches young readers about the thriving False Bay ecosystem. (Photograph: Supplied by the author)

(Photograph: Supplied by the author)

“Where did it go?” I ask.

In no time at all the African penguin propels itself back onto the deck of the boat. This time the penguin has a beak full of tiny silver fish.

In its excitement, it wobbles and veers all over the deck trying desperately to gain its balance on its very short legs.

We start to woof and yap as we watch the penguin crash into almost everything on the boat.

“Stop, penguin! You are going to fall over and drop your fish!” I exclaim.

The penguin finally gains its balance, gently releases its catch onto the deck of the boat, and quips, “Ah, yes, I almost forgot why I was here! I have brought delicious treats for Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs.”

We watch as the penguin takes a big bow and offers the array of small shiny fish to us.

“I present to you …  anchovies!”

“These fish are tiny!” exclaims Brownie, as she creeps closer, unafraid.

“They may be tiny,” says the penguin, “but they are packed with protein and omega-3. They give us huge amounts of energy so that we can swim all day. Try one!”

“Are they easy to catch?” I ask.

 “Kind of,” replies the penguin.

“But it takes teamwork to get the job done. Together, we penguins swim fast circles around the fish. Faster and faster we go, making closer and closer circles around them. And, finally, when the anchovies are in a tight ball, that is the time to rush in and catch one. Yummy!” 

This is all foreign to me so I tilt my head a little to the right and give Monique and Chris an enquiring look. 

“Penguins create a bait ball in order to catch their fish,” explains Chris. “The anchovies swim together in a school, but when the penguins come across them, they force the anchovies into a tight ball. This is called a bait ball.” 

This is a little difficult to imagine. It’s all very new to me, but I keep listening. 

“When the penguins swim into the bait ball, the fish become confused and sometimes a few of them break away from the ball. This makes it easier for the penguins to catch them. The anchovies may be near the bottom of the food chain, but their place here is extremely important. They feed many of the ocean’s creatures,” says Chris. 

Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs.

Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs.

“Soooo, are you Salty Sea Dogs going to try an anchovy?” asks the penguin, as it nudges the fish closer to us once more. 

I am a fussy eater and shrink back undecided, but Brownie, who will eat anything, is the first to try.

“Delicious!” she cries, wagging her tail.

Hearing this, Lucy and I have to scramble for our share before Brownie eats them all. 

The penguin waddles towards the open bow. 

“Well, I must be off! The anchovies are on the move and we must keep up with them. We would love to share more of our anchovies next time we see you!” 

“Thank you, African penguin,” we all chorus. 

As quickly as he arrived, the little black-and-white penguin leaps overboard to join the others, giving a quick goodbye waggle of his wedge-shaped tail. 

But, just before leaving, the penguin had murmured, almost to itself, “That’s of course if the Big Boss doesn’t eat them all first.”

It was said so quietly that I almost missed it. Of course, I have no idea what the penguin means, but I am very curious to find out just who this “Big Boss” might be. DM

Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs

Sandi and the Salty Sea Dogs by Monique Fallows is published by LAPA Publishers and is available at all major bookstores for R200.

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jacki watts says:

    Absolutely charming… Educational, humorous, the extract beautifully captures the interaction … I hope it does very well.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options