Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 5:43 am | Fog/Mist 60º


Special Shoe a Stroke of Good Luck for Penguin Who Couldn’t Swim

Karen B. Winnick's book 'How Lucky Got His Shoe' is based on the story of a little penguin at Santa Barbara Zoo

All proceeds from sales of ‘How Lucky Got His Shoe’ will go to the Santa Barbara Zool
All proceeds from sales of ‘How Lucky Got His Shoe’ will go to the Santa Barbara Zool (Karen B. Winnick)

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s shoe-wearing Humboldt penguin named Lucky is the subject of a new children’s picture book, How Lucky Got His Shoe, by author and illustrator Karen B. Winnick.

Winnick also wrote about another memorable zoo resident in Gemina, The Crooked-Neck Giraffe, in 2013.

How Lucky Got His Shoe tells the real-life story of Lucky, who hatched at the zoo in 2010, but had a right foot that did not develop properly. He could not swim or walk well, and faced possible death due to continued infections.

Outdoor shoe company Teva stepped in to design and create a custom-made shoe for the young penguin, which allowed him to join the zoo’s Humboldt penguin colony, where he lives to this day.

“I was inspired to tell Lucky’s story because he does everything all the other penguins do, despite his disability,” Winnick said. “With his determination, wonderful caregivers, and his shoe, Lucky is truly a lucky penguin. I hope children everywhere will be inspired by his story, too.”

How Lucky Got His Shoe goes on sale on Saturday, Jan. 21, during Penguin Awareness Day at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Winnick will sign books from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the zoo's Crawford Family Penguin Exhibit. The book-signing and Penguin Awareness Day events are free with zoo admission. A 20-minute pass is available for those wishing only to attend the signing.

The colorfully illustrated, 36-page, hardbound book is priced at $12.95. It is sold at the Zoo Store, at local booksellers and online at All book sales proceeds go directly to the Santa Barbara Zoo. For information, call 962-5339 or visit

Winnick also will sign books from 2-4 p.m. on Jan. 21, at Chaucer’s Bookstore, Loreto Plaza, 3321 State St. Visit

How Lucky Got His Shoe follows the little penguin from his hatching and early care by his parents in the nest, to his early attempts to walk and swim.

Rachel Ritchason, the zoo’s real-life curator of birds and records, is depicted as she works with zoo veterinarians to find a way to help Lucky. It was Ritchason's idea to approach Teva, whose corporate headquarters is Goleta, to design a shoe for a penguin. In the book, Teva designers are shown working on several designs before finding the right fit.

“Working with partners in our community and seeing so many people come together to help an animal in need was a special experience,” Ritchason said. “I am so grateful that Lucky has had such passionate people that continue to care for him and provide for his every need.”

For How Lucky Got His Shoe, Winnick met with Lucky and his keepers, saw his shoe collection, took photos, and observed how Lucky walked and interacted with the other penguins.

Winnick began creating the images in pencil, then drawing on canvas before painting in oils. The book’s endpapers, inside the front and back covers, show drawings of Lucky made by children attending the Santa Barbara Zoo’s award-winning Zoo Camp. A photograph of Lucky is at the end of the book, along with a dictionary for children explaining terms used in the book.

After Gemina, The Crooked Neck Giraffe, Winnick’s first book for the Santa Barbara Zoo, came out, Winnick heard from parents of children with disabilities saying their children were inspired by the book. She also heard that the book provided parents of children without disabilities with an opening to discuss and teach about sensitivity toward others.

“Both Gemina and Lucky sparked my interest in animals with disabilities in zoos and aquariums throughout the country,” Winnick said. “I’ve been researching and writing their stories — a blind sea lion, a sea turtle missing flippers, and so many more. These animals have adjusted to their situations because of the care they’ve been given. Most probably they would not survive in the wild.”

Winnick's other picture books for children include Barn Sneeze, Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers and A Year Goes Round: Poems for the Months.

She also serves as president of the Los Angeles Zoo Commission. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

— Julia McHugh for Santa Barbara Zoo.


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