Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places

Despite protests and warnings from friends and family, author Madeleine L’Engle, at the age of seventy-four, embarked on a rafting trip to Antarctica. Her journey through the startling beauty of the continent led her to write Penguins and Golden Calves, a captivating discussion of how opening oneself up to icons, or everyday “windows to God,” leads to the development of a rich and deeply spiritual faith.

Here, L’Engle explains how ordinary things such as family, words, the Bible, heaven, and even penguins can become such windows. She also shows how such a window becomes an idol–a penguin becomes a “golden calf”–when we see it as a reflection of itself instead of God.

With delightful language, insightful metaphor, and personal stories, L’Engle brings readers to a deeper understanding of themselves, their faith, and the presence of God in their daily lives.

Originally published in 1996.

New edition coming in 2018!

Genre: Adult nonfiction

Penguins And Golden Calves


“According to these latest musings from L’Engle, rock hopper penguins, family values, holy days and actresses have something in common. Each can become an icon or an idol… L’Engle enthusiasts will welcome this new addition to their bookshelves.”
-Publishers Weekly, 1996

“L’Engle’s gift of seeing beyond the physical things that surround us everyday, never fails to amaze and delight me. I always learn so much from her devotional efforts.”
-Bryn C. Kaufman, Amazon, 2017

“Madeleine strikes again. I cherish any words that she has ever written and this is no exception. She has an amazing ability to touch on tough matters with such tenderness and humility which is very foreign. She does all this with such respect for words quite unmatched.”
-J.D., Goodreads, 2007


“A Conversation with Madeleine L’Engle”
Heather Webb, 1996 / Mars Hill Review,

“Penguins and Golden Calves, Madeleine L’Engle (1996) #BloggingTheSpirit”
Laurie, 2017 / Relevant Obscurity Blog

“Madeleine L’Engle”
Luci Shaw, 2008 / Books and Culture (Christianity Today)