15 Days Without a Head: Dave Cousins
Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 19

Happy Birdday, Tacky!: Helen Lester & Lynn Munsinger

Book: Happy Birdday, Tacky!
Author: Helen Lester
Illustrator: Lynn Munsinger
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-8 

I love Tacky the Penguin. The board book was one of my favorites to read to Baby Bookworm when she was a little bit younger. I've not read all of Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger's books about Tacky, but I did quite enjoy the latest one, Happy Birdday, Tacky!

Tacky the Penguin is a quirky bird who lives in Nice Icy Land with his companions, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect. The companions are all calm and orderly, but Tacky always keeps things interesting. In Happy Birdday, Tacky!, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect spend weeks planning the perfect birthday party for Tacky. But when the big day arrives, things don't go exactly as planned (they never do, when Tacky is around). But, of course, it all turns out ok in the end. 

I think it helps, in appreciating Happy Birdday, Tacky!, to have read at least the first Tacky book. For example, the other penguins make birthday cards for Tacky, "but since Tacky was an odd bird with an odd way of counting, it only made sense that he had told them odd things about how old he was." This odd way of counting is straight out of the first book, and a nice nod back to the launch of the series. 

I love the vocabulary in this book. Tacky is "quite busy flippiting about". He then pauses in "mid-flapwaddle." And of course "birdday" instead of "birthday". There's enough of this sort of thing to make Happy Birthday, Tacky! fun to read aloud, but not so much as to be confusing. Here are a couple of bits that made me laugh:

""Everything's perfect!" declared Perfect.
(This confused his companions, for as far they knew, Perfect was Perfect. But never mind.) "

Guest dancer Twinklewebs announces:

""I vant to perform for you a denz peez from Swan Frozen-Body-of-Water."

OK, kids might not get that one, but I thought it was funny. And finally:

"They hovered over Twinklewebs, writing their flippers and becoming covered with perspiration icicles. 
What a dreadful end for their Perfect Party.
They were ready to tear their hair, if only they had any."

As you can see, this is not a book that offers a sophisticated humor. But I think it's perfect for three to five year olds. There is perhaps an implied message about going with the flow, but it's otherwise just pure, silly fun. There should be more picture books like that.

Munsinger's illustrations add to the fun. The last quote above is accompanied by a picture of Tacky with a smushed cake on his head (and feet), surrounded by the other penguins. Twinklewebs, a penguin in a pink tutu and feathers, is priceless. There is, as befitting a book set in a nice, icy land, plenty of white space. And step by step vignettes showing Tacky's latest dance will have four year olds everywhere performing on makeshift stages. 

I'm a long-time Tacky fan, and I found Happy Birdday, Tacky! to be an enjoyable addition to the series. A must-purchase for libraries, and a fine choice for anyone who could benefit from taking a less rigid approach to life. Recommended!

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (@hmhkids)
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook