NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Despite the scorching heat wave outside, New Providence Memorial Library helped kids stay cool with a visit from Checkers, an African penguin from Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach. On Monday morning, more than 100 kids and parents filled the Conti Family Community Room in eager anticipation of seeing a live penguin.

Checkers was accompanied by her caretakers Joanna Colligan and Carlo DiMiccio from the aquarium. Colligan started off the visit by giving the kids all sorts of facts on penguins including their habitats, types of different penguins, their distinct characteristics, and even their courting rituals.

The children were all fascinated and listened attentively, and some even rattled off random facts they already knew about penguins. After Colligan finished her discussion, DiMiccio proceeded to remove Checkers from her pet-carrying case below the table, but first warned the children. “You have to be very, very quiet because Checkers is scared of loud noises and if you scare her she won’t come out.”

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Immediately, silence swept the room and all the kids all leaned forward with fervent anticipation.

DiMiccio proceeded to walk up and down the aisle so the kids and parents would all get a chance to see Checkers up close, but nobody was allowed to touch her. “Though she seems friendly, she can bite,” DiMiccio warned.

Checkers, an 18-year-old African penguin who was born in Jenkinson’s Aquarium, weighs about 8 pounds. She lives at the aquarium with 14 other African penguins, including her dad, Jonsie, and sister, Kringle. Because African penguins are an endangered species, Checkers was separated from her mom who was chosen as part of the Species Survival plan.

In the short time Checkers was out of her crate in the library, she never took her unblinking eyes off the crowd. The curiosity and fascination between the kids and Checkers was clearly mutual. After whispering a hushed goodbye, the kids had to part from Checkers as DiMiccio put her back in the crate.