Penguin by Polly Dunbar.

Ben gets a present and finds a penguin inside.  Though Ben tries to talk to the penguin, it does nothing at all.  He tries ticking, making faces, being silly, but nothing happens.  Finally in desperation, Ben tries to feed Penguin to a lion, but the lion refuses to eat the penguin.  That does it!  Ben loses his temper and screams at the penguin, “SAY SOMETHING!”  So the lion eats Ben for being so loud.  And finally, Penguin does something.

There are certain quirky picture books that work and others that just leave you scratching your head and wondering how an adult can be so very confused by a children’s book.  This is one of the ones that really works.  The text of the book is simple as are the illustrations.  Ben’s antics to get the penguin to respond are charmingly done.  And the timing of the book is perfect.  Just when readers will have decided conclusively that the penguin is not alive and cannot respond, the book changes and becomes wonderfully odd. 

I would recommend this more for one-on-one sharing than for a group.  I can see the ending puzzling some children while others merrily take to the strange twists.

The Best Father's Day Present Ever

The Best Father’s Day Present Ever by Christine Loomis, pictures by Pam Paparone.

Langley wants to get his father the best present he can for father’s day.  Though his mother encourages him to make something, Langley now has an allowance and wants to buy his dad the perfect gift.  Unfortunately, being a snail, he is not fast enough to get to the store before it closes.  On his slow return home, Langley starts to notice things that his father would love to see, and he finds the truly perfect father’s day present.

I simply love books that speak out against consumerism and give children alternatives to purchasing things for any holiday.  Langley’s solution for a gift is charming and personal, demonstrating his real adoration of his father.   The text is a nice length for reading aloud to preschoolers or kindergartners.  Even first and second graders will appreciate the storyline of having an allowance but being unable to spend it.  The prose is fluid and doesn’t talk down to child readers.  I love the great descriptions of the items he sees on his walk home.  The illustrations in the book are equally distinct with a feel of woodblock prints, they have bright colors that make them modern feeling as well.  I enjoy the tension between the modern style and colors and the format itself. 

Recommended as a great addition to Father’s Day story times, this is also a great readaloud when doing bug stories or talking to a child about what a present really is.