Blown Away by Rob Biddulph
Penguin Blue has a brand new kite but when he flies it, it lifts him right off the ice and up into the air. Two other penguins try to help and get swept along too. Wilbur the harp seal tries to catch them and joins the group flying along. Blue calls out for help from a polar bear and then Clive is riding along too, his boat and all. They are finally dropped on a lush warm jungle isle where they all agree it is way too hot. Blue has a great solution though, it will just take Clive’s boat, leaves and vines and one good gust of wind that is provided by the elephants on the island. Soon the group are back in their icy home, but there is one stowaway from the island who now needs to figure out how to get back to the warmth of the jungle.
This romp of a picture book is filled with a positive feel throughout. Each new challenge is playfully presented and merrily dealt with through clever solutions. The text rhymes and creates a jaunty cheer that makes this book great fun to share aloud. The rhyming story is written very strongly with a great story arc that solidly supports the humor. This is a book that is immensely satisfying to read.
The design of the book is stellar with playful word design and placement that enhances the strong illustrations. The book is beautifully illustrated with images filled with strong graphic elements, deep colors and also small playful touches. Children will enjoy lingering over the illustrations and spotting the penguins waiting for the bus on an ice floe and the bear losing his map immediately. The combination of strong vivid illustrations and small details make for a book that has its own unique vibe.
A great read-aloud for any penguin story time, this picture book will be enjoyed by preschoolers looking for a complete and playful story. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
This is a delightful wintry follow-up to Flora and the Flamingo, a book that stole my heart when it came out. With clear connections to the ballet of the first book, this second book has Flora on ice skates swirling with a penguin. Flora puts on her skates and the penguin climbs out of the water and the two glide together across the page, through different flaps to lift, landing synchronized jumps side-by-side. But then the penguin disappears back into the water and Flora is left skating alone. The penguin returns with a fish for Flora, but Flora tosses it back into the water. The penguin is entirely angry and dejected, so Flora figures out how to repair the budding friendship.
Idle tells so much in her wordless books. Who knew that a penguin could communicate so very clearly with the tip of its head, the tilt of its wings and the set of its shoulders. Flora too communicates her feelings clearly on the page to great effect. It’s a book that explores friendship, dance and the joy of winter play.
The illustrations are top notch, they invite the reader to glide along with them. The flaps on different pages are ingenious ways to have readers participate, culminating in one amazing jump the two characters do together. They amazingly leap right off the page, or perhaps it’s the book that leaps out to catch them. Beautiful, icy and pure joy.
Another magnificent offering by Molly Idle, this book will be embraced by fans of the first and will make a great holiday gift. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Snowcial: An Antarctic Social Network Story by Chelsea Prince, photography by Keoki Flagg and Robert Pittman
This nonfiction book follows the journey of a family to visit the Antarctic Peninsula. They travel aboard an icebreaker ship that has an ice breaking hull but sails only in warmer temperatures. Along the way, the children in the family, Anna and Rory explore the ship. They watch the different birds that follow the ship and find out information on their habitat and how they survive out at sea. Soon they are seeing icebergs, glaciers and lots of snow and ice. They also get to visit places where penguins and seals live. They even spot some killer whales hunting in the ocean. A mix of science and exploration, this book invites readers along on a journey to an icy world that is full of life.
Price sets just the right tone with her book. She writes with a merry voice, one that invites children reading the book to learn right alongside her and her characters. Throughout the book there is a sense of adventure and a strong tie to information and science. This is a book that teaches in an easy and welcoming way.
While Price sets the tone, the incredible photography from Flagg and Pittman truly capture the setting. Their close ups of wounded penguins, hunted seals, and the activity of a penguin colony truly allow readers to see Antarctica up close. Their photography is visually beautiful but also a way to learn more about this incredible place.
Brilliant science nonfiction, join the journey to Antarctica with this gorgeous book. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Chelsea Print and Publishing.
The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems by Lauren Myracle, illustrated by Jed Henry
Ty is seven years old and has a pretty complicated life. He has a new baby sister who is taking all of his mom’s time and attention. His older sisters won’t walk him into school like his mom used to, insisting that he can do it all on his own. His best friend is in the hospital battling cancer, and Ty’s other friends can be confusing and even alarming. Ty keeps getting into trouble at home for things like chasing the cat with a Dustbuster. Then on the school trip to the aquarium, Ty takes a baby penguin home with him. This is one wild boy who is also big hearted and caring, just not sure how best to show it.
Myracle, who writes teen books primarily, has created a truly exceptional book for younger readers. Ty is a character who is easily relatable, even when he does some extremely unusual things, like stealing a penguin. His home life will be familiar to many children, who will have older siblings and babies in their families too. Add to that the universal feelings of being asked to do big-kid things too early and also being treated like a baby, and you get a book that is universally appealing.
Myracle’s writing has an outstanding humor throughout. In the more dramatic moments, children will understand that things will be alright in the end. The black and white illustrations by Henry convey that humor and lightness as well.
Perfect for both reading aloud and for a child reading on their own, this book will be enjoyed by fans of the Stink series as well as those who like Clementine. This book would pair well with The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Dutton.
Baby Penguins Everywhere! by Melissa Guion
There was a penguin who was all alone on the ice floes. She liked the quiet, but sometimes it did get lonely. Then one day, she discovered a top hat floating in the water. Once the hat was on land, out popped a little penguin. And then another! The big penguin was very happy and no longer lonely. But then came another little penguin, and more, and more. Soon there were many, many little penguins everywhere. The big penguin was very busy and quite tired. She knew she just needed on little thing – a moment of quiet and solitude. But after that, she merrily joined in the fun with all of the other penguins again.
Guion frames her message about the need for quiet and solitude in a way that children will understand. The big penguin needs a little break, just like their parents sometimes do. The best part though, is that after that break, they are ready for more fun! The writing here is simple, making it just right for toddlers.
It is Guion’s art that really shines here. The delight of the first two little penguins is perfection and then the surprise of turning the page and realizing that they just keep on coming makes the book even more fun. Guion has her little penguins in constant motion, playfully coming up with new ideas and new toys. This is much more like a class than a family, so teachers may appreciate using this book as a way to explain their own need for some quiet time too.
A cheerful look at peace and quiet, this book is wonderfully rowdy too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC received from author.
Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon
One day Penguin found something strange in the snow. It was a pinecone and realized that it was cold. Penguin quickly knitted Pinecone a scarf that matched his, but Pinecone just kept shivering. So Penguin headed on a journey to return Pinecone to his forest home. When they got to the forest of towering pines, Penguin built a nest for Pinecone and a heart of stones around him. Penguin returned home but kept wondering what had happened to his friend. So he set off once again to find out. Readers will be charmed by the conclusion of this tale of an unusual but heartfelt friendship.
Yoon excels at simple illustrations and simple words. Here she has created a world of sunny friendship in the chill north. The words are simple enough to use with toddlers and they will appreciate the love of a found object at that age too. Yoon’s illustrations have a wonderful jolly nature, creating a world that is clearly safe and loving.
A great pick for friendship or penguin story times, this book will also work well for winter units. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small
Elliot was a very proper boy, dressed in his tuxedo and bow tie. When his father asked if he wanted to go to the aquarium one day, he went along despite worries about loud kids. When they got to the aquarium, his father sat down to read and sent Elliot off to have some fun. Elliot went past the jellyfish, the saltwater display, and the hands-on tide pool and discovered the penguins! He immediately connected with the birds and then asked his father if he could have one. His father glanced at a poster for plush penguins and agreed. But Elliot did not have a plush penguin in mind. Instead, he brought home a real penguin. Once back home, Elliot wasted no time in creating a perfect penguin habitat. But after days of happy living, what in the world would his father say when he discovered the penguin?
This book has its own wonderful feel. From the dapper lad in the lead role to his couch-loving, slow-moving father, it has the feel of a classic book but also one that is delightfully modern as well. Buzzeo’s writing is fresh and funny, creating a book that is both inviting and compelling. It also has great twists throughout where you never know what will happen next. In other words, it’s a stellar read.
Small’s art is what provides a large part of the feel of the book. His tuxedo wearing kid, the splash of green that is the father, and the busts of other colors throughout. The use of primarily blacks and whites to tell the story pays homage to its subject and also gives it the marvelous stylized feel that works so well.
The great librarian character at one point doesn’t hurt the book one smidge either! This is a dapper, dazzling read that is creative, funny and a delight. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.
Tacky Goes to Camp by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.
Another great entry in the Tacky series, this time Tacky and his fellow penguins are headed to summer camp. It is a rather frozen and snowy, summer camp, but most of the activities are the same. There is swimming, sleeping in tents, archery, canoeing, and arts and crafts. Tacky does things in his own unique way, especially compared to the other penguins who follow the rules, march in line, and don’t ever color outside the lines. At the campfire, there are smores and stories. Tacky eats as many smores as possible and tells a very scary story, Beware the bear, that ends with a joke. The other penguins are unimpressed until a bear enters their camp that night. Tacky is asleep in a smore-induced stupor but still manages to save the day.
Tacky is great humor for kids. They will relate to his messiness, his inattention to details, and his amazing hunger for sweets. They will laugh along with the story, happily knowing that Tacky will save the day. Lester manages to create a story with humor and drama but no real fear for children. Munsinger’s art sings along with the storyline, carrying some of the more visual humor.
This light-hearted winner is a perfect for hot summer days or cold wintry ones. It is a book that I would read aloud to slightly older children who will enjoy the humor and the setting. Appropriate for ages 4-6, though children as old as 8 will love the story read aloud.