One rather grumpy penguin takes readers on a tour of all the things that are wrong in his penguin life. There is the cold, the snow, the crowd of other penguins who make too much noise and all look like him. The sea is too salty. The sun is too bright. There are predators in the water. He waddles when he walks and can’t fly. It goes on and on. Then a wise walrus overhears the penguin and explains that he is wasting his one life focused on the negative rather than the spectacular beauty around him. But is the penguin ready to hear this? Maybe for a moment or two.
John’s text is uproariously funny. The litany of complaints is cleverly written and ends up having a rather jaunty if petulant rhythm to it. Even children will recognize that there are some people who just complain all the time. The walrus’ wisdom is rich and lovely, delivered as a lecture and something that makes this book even more fun to share aloud. Even better is the penguin’s reaction, which ends the book in just the right way.
Smith’s art adds to the humor. The penguin looks like all the others but has a personality all his own. The illustrations use a subtle color palette filled with shades of whites and grays to create the snowy landscape. Against that, the penguins pop. The dark underwater scenes are deep and menacing, setting a great contrast to the snow.
Don’t miss the book jacket where the penguin greets readers with his attitude right from the start. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Books for Young Readers.