Reese Witherspoon was so touched by the incredible story of a magpie named Penguin that she’s bringing it to the big screen. The film will star Naomi Watts as Sam Bloom, the mother of the family who took in the bird at only a few weeks of age when she was found injured. Sam’s son, Noah, saw Penguin near his family's Northern Beaches home in Sydney, Australia, back in late 2013. The family — dad Cameron, mom Sam, and their three children, Rueben, 16, Noah, 14, and Oli, 12 — never expected how integral this tiny bird would become to them.
After seeking a veterinarian's advice, the family began rearing the fragile little creature. As Penguin's strength grew, Cameron began documenting the family's life with Penguin — named by the children for her coloring – and the magpie soon became a social media star. With 167,000 followers on Instagram, Cameron's beautiful images of the family's unique relationship with Penguin quickly warmed the hearts around the world.
Penguin was always free to come and go as she pleased, but it wasn't easy for her in the wild. Always staying close to home, Penguin was able to make a beeline straight back into the house if the other magpies decided to come swooping. Penguin also began waiting for the children to return home from school every afternoon, excitedly greeting them with a cheery song, ready to head home with them and play. While the Penguin and the children certainly have a special bond, it was Penguin's relationship with their mom, Sam, that made the most impact on their life as a whole.
Helping Each Other Heal
Earlier in 2013, Sam was left paralyzed after falling from a damaged balcony railing on a family vacation in Thailand and breaking her spine. "Penguin could not have arrived at a better time, by which I mean a more terrible time," writes Cameron Bloom in a book he penned with Trevor Greive, documenting the family's life with their magpie friend.
"Penguin and Sam soon became inseparable; one was always looking after the other. When Penguin was weak and sickly, Sam would lovingly nurse her back to health. And when Sam found it hard to get moving, Penguin would sing to get her energy levels up. If Sam was inside, doing paperwork or writing in her private journal, Penguin would be there. If Sam was outside painting and enjoying the sunshine, Penguin would be there." Both broken and trying to come to terms with their new way of life, Sam and Penguin really helped each other through it all.
"She was fiercely loyal to Sam and would provide a melodic chirp of encouragement whenever anything proved more challenging than might have been expected," writes Cameron. “As Sam slowly came to terms with her strange new world, Penguin did the same. When training and physical therapy were over for the day, or the pain got too much to bear, they would lie outside beneath the sky. I would often overhear the two of them having what sounded like long, in-depth conversations about what they were going through."
Source of Inspiration
Determined to maintain the active lifestyle she had before the accident, Sam took inspiration from her little bird friend. When Penguin was found, her recovery was possible, but very uncertain. There were days that the Blooms thought she might not make it through the night. However, her resilience and love for the Bloom family saw her make tiny progressions, eventually getting to the point where she could fly.
"I'll never forget when Penguin took her very first flight inside our lounge-room — it was an amazing moment for all of us," Cameron writes. Sam was then inspired to take up kayaking. While difficult at first, kayaking became a way for Sam to stay active and keep busy. It also allowed her to catch a break from what she calls her "stupid wheelchair." With the break on her back being quite high, Sam was unable to use her torso for strength and balance like most kayakers. Instead, Sam relies on the strength of her arms and has adapted her style so successfully that she was selected to join the Australian ParaCanoe team.
"I may never accept that Sam's accident was part of any divine plan; her suffering is too great for me to believe such things," writes Cameron. "But that she lived when so many others might have died, and that Penguin fell from the heavens when we needed her most — my heart tells me that if these were not miracles, then the Bloom family is still blessed beyond reason."
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.