John McDonald is a Maine storyteller, so you’d figure he could come up with a funny line about puffins every once in a while.

But more than 80 funny lines about puffins? At one time?

That’s what McDonald did for the new book, “Nothin’ But Puffins” (Down East, $12.95). It’s a beautiful picture book with views of the colorful puffins found off the coast of Maine, plus witty captions by McDonald.

For example, one picture of a lone puffin looking off into the distance has the caption: “You had me at sardine.” A picture of two puffins floating in the water has “Marco” written over one, and “Polo” over the other. A picture of several puffins on a rock has the caption: “And I thought the summit at Katahdin was crowded.”

McDonald, 65, has written three previous books, “A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar,” “Down the Road a Piece” and “The Maine Dictionary.”

Besides performing often, he writes a weekly newspaper column and hosts a weekend talk show on Portland radio station WGAN (560 AM). He lives in Otisfield.



Q: Why did you decide to do this book?

A: They asked me, and I said absolutely. When somebody asks you to be part of a puffin project, how do you say no? Everybody loves puffins.


Q: How did you come up with so many captions without repeating yourself?

A: First, you have to think like a puffin. They do express a lot of individuality in the pictures. I worked on them a long time, and read them to people, fixing ones that weren’t quite right.


I like to think that all the things I’ve done worked together to help me on this: The spontaneity on the radio, the spontaneity telling stories, my writing experiences.


Q: Do you have any firsthand experience with puffins?

A: Growing up (in Tenants Harbor, south of Rockland) my dad had a boat and we used to go out to see the puffins. They really are seabirds, they only come ashore to mate and to hatch. They can actually fly under water.


Q: How do you define Maine humor and Maine storytelling?


A: I think of Kendall Morse. He’s from Machias, way Down East, and he absorbed a lot of the old stories and ways of telling them from his uncle.

It’s about brevity. It’s understated, and not slapstick. It has the feel of country mouse and city mouse, or the country versus the city. There are always tourists in the stories who come out on the short end, and everyone enjoys that. Because here are these people from a culture that says they are smarter and better off and make more money, but they end up looking foolish.


Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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