“Penguin the Magpie” gives back: international bestselling book supports the Reeve Foundation

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on April 04, 2017 # News

When their 10-year old son rescued an injured magpie chick in 2013 - quickly named Penguin, in honor of her black and white plumage - Sam and Cameron Bloom never imagined that this this little bird would help save their family or transform a family tragedy into an empowering message of hope.

On the day Penguin was found, Sam Bloom had only recently returned home after seven months in hospital following a tragic accident while on a family vacation in Thailand: A faulty safety barrier on a hotel viewing platform had suddenly collapsed and Sam had fallen 20 feet on concrete, leaving her critically injured and near death. Though her life was saved Sam suffered a devastating spinal cord injury that left the gifted surfer, lifelong adventure traveler, and mother of three young boys paralyzed from the chest down.

Struggling to adjust to the pain and limitations of her severe injuries, Sam was suffering from deep depression. However the former nurse immediately recognized the needs of the injured baby bird and made caring for this tiny creature her priority. An extraordinary friendship emerged between bird and woman, and each helped the other regain strength and develop a fresh outlook on life.

"When I was caring for Penguin I would forget about my own problems and just focus on helping her as much as I could," says, Sam. "Often the best way to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better, and that was certainly the case for me. When Penguin got stronger it inspired me to get stronger - she was determined to fly and it motivated me to try herder to be my best. I'm not pretending it was easy or pleasant, it wasn't and it isn't. But I would not be who I am today if it wasn't for that crazy little fluff-ball."

Cameron, a professional photographer from Sydney, Australia, was on hand to document this unique relationship, and when he began posting stunning photos of Penguin and his family on Instagram, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life fell in love with the fun-loving baby bird and the human rescuers she had adopted as her own family.

It wasn't long before publishers started reaching out to the Bloom family in the hope of turning their story into a book.

“Taking photos of Penguin with Sam and our boys brought me so much happiness during what was a very dark time for Sam, and indeed for all of us. Seeing the woman I loved suffering so greatly broke my heart every day, and to see her smile again meant everything to me. Before Penguin arrived I could feel us losing Sam, but when she started caring for Penguin the light suddenly came back into her eyes. As Penguin got stronger Sam's strength and love of life returned. For me this was a deeply personal project, a form of therapy if you will, and I never imagined so many people from all over the world would fall in love with this crazy little bird just as we had. When publishers started calling me I couldn't believe it. It was actually a little overwhelming," Cameron says.

Cameron reached out to friend and New York Times bestselling author, Bradley Trevor Greive, who now lives in the USA, to seek his help with the project.

“I called BTG, hoping he would help me create this book, and I was over the moon when he agreed to write our story. BTG was the first person to see that Penguin could be a vessel for Sam's journey, and he had the extraordinary ability to present the difficult reality of Sam's injuries in a way that was very honest and direct, but also somehow tender and poetic. BTG wanted readers to look beyond the immediate pain to appreciate the love story between Sam and myself, between Sam and I and our children, and between Penguin and our entire family. The end result was very beautiful and so unlike any other story I've ever read - both Sam and I wept tears of sadness and joy when we read the first draft - I've never seen a book quite like it."

The unique combination of Cameron's award winning photographs, BTG's stirring prose, and a powerful personal message from Sam to victims of spinal cord injury and their families, generated a strong response from readers around the world. The book became an instant bestseller in Australia, and also topped the charts in the UK, Japan, and Germany. It wasn't long beforefilm offers started to pour in, and in December of 2016 it was announced that two-time-Academy-Award-nominee, Naomi Watts, had signed on to play the role Sam Bloom in a major Hollywood movie adaptation produced by Reese Witherspoon.

Meanwhile Sam has received countless letters from readers who have found hope and inspiration from her story, and today she shares her experiences with community groups and has also started a program to help spinal cord injury victims to take up kayaking as part of their rehabilitation program. Since taking up the sport herself Sam has won two national titles and in 2015 was a member of the Australian Para-Canoe team that competed at the World Championships in Milan, Italy.

Penguin the Magpie, published by Atria Books, will go on sale in the United States and Canada on Tuesday, April 4th, 2017.

As they have done in every territory where their book has been published, Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive are each donating 10% of royalties from the sale of Penguin the Magpie to a leading spinal cord injury charity - in North America they have chosen to support The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Their contribution is also being matched by their North American publisher, Atria Books/Simon & Schuster.

“We feel honored to partner with The Reeve Foundation, a respected global leader in the search for a cure to spinal cord injury. We are also very grateful to our publisher, Atria Books, for generously supporting the important scientific work undertaken by The Reeve Foundation that has made it possible for people living with serious spinal cord injuries to enjoy more active, engaged and fulfilling lives and, most importantly, takes us closer and closer to the day when spinal cord injury will no longer be a life sentence. My sons and I would give anything for Sam to be able to stand on her own feet again - it means the world to us that The Reeve Foundation are so passionately committed to helping my wife, and millions of other young men and women currently confined to wheelchairs, to regain their independence.” said Cameron.

View the book trailer for Penguin the Magpie: