Gordon is a very tidy penguin who lives with a very untidy tapir. The two of them simply can’t get along together. Tapir takes all of the toilet paper to make a hammock in his room and a hat to go with it. He doesn’t do the dishes and the living room has started to look like a jungle. Tapir has complaints about Gordon too. Gordon is too orderly and won’t let Tapir join his club of penguins. Finally Gordon has had enough, particularly when Tapir’s friend moves in and lives in the bathroom. So Gordon moves out. Tapir misses him dreadfully, but Gordon soon reaches out and the two discover that sometimes friendships work best when you don’t share the same space.
Shortlisted for the German Children’s Book of the Year, this picture book is entirely delightful. A large part of that comes from the skillful mix of anthropomorphic animals but also keeping them very realistic as well. These are real-feeling animals who just happen to have couches, dishes and bathrooms. The art is beautifully and detailed, allowing the text to fade into the background for much of the book. My favorite pages are actually free of text as the two of them struggle to make living together work.
The use of the odd-couple dynamics in the book doesn’t feel stale at all and is further freshened by the unique animals chosen as the protagonists. Young readers will want to discover more about Tapirs even if they are slovenly. The book has a lovely story arc that gives a satisfying ending to the book, one that young readers will appreciate as they navigate their own friendships whether they are the tidy or messy one.
A clever look at friendships that gives new life to an old trope. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.