There Once Was A Puffin…

There Once Was a Puffin

Oh, there once was a Puffin
Just the shape of a muffin,
And he lived on an island
In the bright blue sea!

He ate little fishes,
That were most delicious,
And he had them for supper
And he had them for tea.

But this poor little Puffin,
He couldn’t play nothin’,
For he hadn’t anybody
To play with at all.

So he sat on his island,
And he cried for awhile, and
He felt very lonely,
And he felt very small.

Then along came the fishes,
And they said, “If you wishes,
You can have us for playmates,
Instead of for tea!”

So they now play together,
In all sorts of weather,
And the Puffin eats pancakes,
Like you and like me.

by Florence Page Jaques

(This poem was previously published in Child Life magazine and then reprinted in The Big Golden Book Of Poetry by Jane Werner Watson (1947). I will continue to try to track down the original issue and year of Child Magazine this lovely poem appeared and report it when I do. Wendy, a reader, noted “Marjorie Barrows who compiled “One Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls” was the editor of Child Life magazine”. She also noted, “The book is “One Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls” copyright 1930 published by Whitman Publishing Company of Racine Wisconsin.”

I will continue to research when and where this poem was originally published. Perhaps Wendy has found it!

See this post for an update–with pictures from an earlier publishing of There Once Was A Puffin reprinted in, The Big Golden Book of Poetry by Jane Werner Watson (1947).

  • Victoria C. Slotto says:

    I love it! My 93 year old mother who has dementia also is able to recite the entire poem from memory. She has had a passion for both poetry and puffins her whole life.

    I am using it for a poetry prompt on a poetry blog I contribute to. The prompt will be to write a poem for children. It will post on 10-19-2013 at Thanks for this.

    October 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm
  • Kathie says:

    I first heard this poem when I was 5 (it was in a 16 volumn set called “The Children’s Hour”) and had it memorized by time I was 6. ALL of my family have this memorized; parents, siblings, children, grandchildred, and the great grandchildren are working on it.

    November 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm
  • Richard M. says:

    Loving this poem as a child and leaarning it by heart, I was thrilled to see my first live puffins on the coast of Norway when I was already 23 years old. Later on the Oregon Coast. I recebtly brought a stuffed puffin toy to my great-grandson in France and was looking for the exact text to translate to him. Thank you for this web site. I was happy to find the French translation for puffin. Macareux.

    December 21, 2013 at 6:29 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    How lovely! I am so glad to have helped spread this lovely poem far and wide! =)

    February 13, 2014 at 4:42 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    That is so fantastic! What fun this poem is… did you have any other favorites from that collection?

    February 13, 2014 at 4:44 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    You are most welcome. I am so happy you found it and were able to share it with your great-grandson! =)

    February 13, 2014 at 4:45 am
  • Eleanor Boba says:

    For what it’s worth, my mother-in-law remembers memorizing this poem for an elocution lesson when she was five. That would have been 1945.

    April 11, 2014 at 10:25 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    Oh how fun! =) Thanks for chiming in! =) It will help date this poem—the original!

    May 1, 2014 at 6:52 pm
  • Jacquie says:

    I had this poem in a delightful book, 100 Best Poems for
    Boys and Girls’, edited by Marjorie Barrows, in the late 1930s. Wish I still had a copy but I gave it to my daughter.

    May 10, 2014 at 6:33 am
  • Anita says:

    This puffin poem was printed in a children’s story book called “A Book of English Poems” graded for use in schools by J.H. Jagger, M.A.D.Litt. Part 1
    published by University of London Press Ltd. in 1931

    I have loved this poem a very long time and read it to my children now 50, 49 and 47. There are many other interesting poems in that little book! I’m lucky to own it.

    May 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm
  • Wendy Wallerstein says:

    I have very vivid ( and fond) memories of my mother reading this poem from a small blue book of poems . I, too,memorized
    It for fun and also used it for school recitations.
    I taught it to my children and now my granddaughters (they especially like the last line about pancakes!)
    The book is “One Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls” copyright 1930 published by Whitman Publishing Company of Racine Wisconsin.

    June 22, 2014 at 7:29 am
  • Wendy Wallerstein says:

    Marjorie Barrows who compiled “One Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls”
    was the editor of Child Life magazine!

    June 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm
  • Tim Brosnan says:

    Ah, the Big Golden Book of Poetry. I’m 54 and still have a copy (alas, not the one I was given in elementary school) sitting on my shelf, my two favorites from it being “The Puffin” and “Little Orphant (sic) Annie”. For a number of years, I toured with a poetry performance group based in Asheville, NC called Poetry Alive that included both poems in its repertoire, introducing works like these to hundreds of schools, colleges and civic groups throughout the United States. Kudos to Puffinpalooza for its contribution to the common good!

    June 24, 2014 at 7:43 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:


    How nice! What lovely memories! =) And you gave them to your daughter! Maybe she still has it?

    June 24, 2014 at 6:11 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    Thank you for your comment! That is just great. I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of that book! =) What are some of your other favorite poems in the book?

    June 24, 2014 at 6:12 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    Hello Wendy,

    Thanks for the comment! Every time I think I have it pinned down it seems a book published even earlier had the poem in it. But we are getting closer! Do you still have the book? How fun that you loved it and passed it along to your kids and granddaughters! That is just so sweet! =) Thank you for sharing your story with us!

    June 24, 2014 at 6:15 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:


    YAY! You are a good researcher! I will add this information right now!

    June 24, 2014 at 6:16 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:


    Thank you for sharing your experience with this lovely little poem! I must go find “Little Orphant (sic) Annie” now! I bet it is fun too! =) And how wonderful you were able to share this gem with so many others in your poetry performance group, what a cool experience even on its own!

    June 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:


    What fun! Macareux! I love to go see puffins whenever and wherever I can! How fun that you have seen them in different places too! Have you seen different kinds of puffins?

    June 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    A family of puffin lovers! That is just so precious! How great that you can all learn it together!!

    June 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:


    Thank you so much for sharing this story with us! How beautiful that a poem can stick with someone. Dementia is so difficult, I am sorry for her and for you and your whole family. It is good that she has strong, fun memories to hold on to in this rough time.

    June 24, 2014 at 6:27 pm
  • Katie says:

    I am 34 and remember listening to this on a Storyteller tape. I can’t remember who recited it though. I’ve always remembered snippets, but found it again today and read it to my two little boys :)

    June 26, 2014 at 11:32 am
  • L says:

    At 62, I can still recite this poem by heart. I learned it more than 50 years ago. We were recently in Alaska where I saw some puffins and I launched into my poetic performance for all our traveling companions. Too funny!

    July 11, 2014 at 6:59 am
  • LINDY YOST says:

    My mother would recite this poem from heart.She was 93 when she passed in 2010. Getting ready to fly to Sweden to recite it to my 3 grandkids i have not seen in over a yer.Never been overseas.Cant wait.

    July 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm
  • Mary E. says:

    I am a retired first grade teacher and taught this poem to my class for
    about 17 years. I used it for choral reading, penmanship and art. I
    always loved it. It always made me laugh and hope it made poetry fun
    for my class.

    August 22, 2014 at 9:31 am
  • kristine sisk says:

    I sat in Florences lap as an 8 year old and had her read this poem to me. Her husband sketched the illustrations as well. It came from an original book of poetry by Florence Paige Jaques by the same name i.e. “There Once Was a Puffin.” All the poems are as delightful and playful as was the soul of the author!!! You can goggle the book it was available a few years ago still.

    September 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm
  • Stan Kubik says:

    This poem sucks.

    October 6, 2014 at 11:48 am
  • Julie Ann Myers says:

    My grandmother, Henrietta Page Johnson, was Florence’s youngest sister. Florence and her husband, Francis Lee Jaques (a renown naturalist artist), married late in life and had no children. All of us in the extended family called Florence “Aunt Dee Dee.” All of us children have a copy of “There Once Was a Puffin,” the book of her poems in which this gem was first published. In the same book is another classic of hers, “There Once Was a Pancake.” I loved every poem — AND every illustration by Uncle Lee — in that book and memorized many. I can still recite those two, today. Florence and Lee won the Burroughs Medal (nature writing) in the early 1940s for their book, Snowshoe Country. Their lives are thoroughly documented in a number of biographies and Florence wrote the definitive biography about Uncle Lee and his art. It really shouldn’t be so difficult to date this poem or to uncover the information provided here. My grandmother and her sisters grew up on Decatur, Illinois. DeeDee and Lee met in NYC where they lived for years. They lived north of

    March 17, 2015 at 5:54 am
  • Vernon Cobb says:

    I love that poem. I would tell it to my daughters and I stuck with them. I’m 62 and still enjoy just remembering it. I heard it when I was 6 years old. Such love and fun from a little bird. The poem will live forever.

    March 19, 2015 at 8:00 am
  • andreia says:

    I used to read this to my brothers when we were little from a chidrens set of World Book Encyclopedias (I think). It’s always been a favorite.

    April 22, 2015 at 5:20 pm
  • John Coiner says:

    While I was having my annual physical a week ago, somehow a subject came up that reminded me of the Puffin. My mother read it to me before I could read, , about 1935, and the book, “Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls”, was in my desk until last year, when I had a stroke and lost it, along with many other things. I couldn’t remember the second line, however, so when I got home I plugged in “poem: The Puffin”, and there it was! I can’t imagine why you started this website, but I’m glad you did. Thank you!

    April 30, 2015 at 2:14 pm
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing that with me. I am in tears right now. If I had no other real purpose for this website, you just affirmed that I had a great reason to share. You and many others have found this sweet poem and it has brought something back for all of you. For that, I am happy I started You are so welcome. Thank YOU for writing me. And, I wish you a full recovery.

    – Meg (Puffinpalooza)

    May 1, 2015 at 12:39 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    That is just so lovely! Thank you for sharing that with me. =) This poem has touched so many lives!

    May 1, 2015 at 12:40 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    Well, we certainly hope “There Once Was A Puffin…” will live forever! We are trying to keep it around. Perhaps your daughters will tell it to their daughters and so on. Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience with the poem. The responses here make this site worthwhile.

    May 1, 2015 at 12:43 am
  • Puffinpalooza says:

    What a fantastic message you’ve sent! It got cut off. How sad! I want to know more. I would LOVE to read “There Once Was a Pancake”. I am going to try to find it and put it on this site as well. While Florence and Francis were very popular and they have a lot about them–this poem has been difficult to date. Every time I find a date we uncover that it was published previously in another book. It was wildly popular, as you know, and as these comments indicate. Everyone loves this poem! It has been published time and again in various compilations. If you know more please email through our contact page. I’d love to make sure I have the correct information posted!

    Thank you for writing! I look forward to hearing from you.

    May 1, 2015 at 12:47 am
  • Olivia and Emily says:

    yo yo! what up in da hood? this poem is the real MVP !! enjoying this lovely poem with a cup of my straight up hot cocoa in the hood. coincidentally im eatin pancakes. eatin pancakes eatin bacon pancakes put some bacon in a pancake lol sorry got carried away. i think the puffin is A1 for becoming friends with the fishes. FISH ARE FRIENDS NOT FOOD !! aight time to finish this hot cocoa from the hood. peace.

    May 22, 2015 at 9:47 am

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