The Squad: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
A Missed Opportunity?

Tacky the Penguin: Helen Lester

Book: Tacky the Penguin
Author: Helen Lester
Illustrator: Lynn M. Munsinger
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8 

Tacky the PenguinTacky the Penguin is a board book reissue of a 1988 title written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. Tacky the Penguin is about a misfit who, through his unique qualities, manages to save the day. Not an original premise, certainly, but I think that kids will like it. Tacky is loud and flamboyant. He wears a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, and marches quite decisively to the beat of his own drummer. When he jumps into the water, he wears an old-fashioned striped bathing suit, and a yellow inner tube. He always looks like he's having fun, in contrast to his more staid companions "Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect". When a trio of hunters show up, looking to trap penguins, Tacky is able to scare them away just by being himself.

My favorite sequence in the book is this one (across two page spreads): First Tacky shows the hunters how he moves, which is quite different from how penguins normally march. In response, "The hunters looked puzzled." Then instead of executing a graceful dive, Tacky does "a splashy cannonball." In response, we learn that "The hunters looked wet." Something about that parallelism appeals to me, from the hunters looking puzzled to the hunters looking wet. It feels quite kid-friendly.

Lynn Munsinger's illustrations are delightful. She clearly demonstrates the various moods of the penguins, no small feat given that they have beaks instead of mouths. The conventional penguins usually walk around with their beaks in the air, a parody of butlers everywhere. The hunters, in contrast, look like something out of the Disney version of The Rescuers. They look like old-school wilderness men (though bearing nets and cages, not guns).

In one final, nice touch, the last page of the book includes the music and lyrics for Tacky's favorite song: "How many toes does a fish have?" I suspect that one could become quite the rage among young listeners. All in all, Tacky the Penguin is a nice addition to the ranks of board books. I'm certain to be choosing as a gift title.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: August 25, 2008 (board book edition)
Source of Book: Review copy rom the publisher
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