Book: Penguin Problems
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Age Range: 3-7
Penguin Problems, written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith, is the story of a cranky little penguin who complains about everything. When a mature walrus shares some perspective, the penguin considers whether or not a better attitude is warranted. But overall, his personality remains fairly consistent throughout the story. He's like a preschool-age, penguin-shaped version of Alexander of Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame.
The text in Penguin Problems is written in short, punch text, and the problems are those that preschoolers will be able to understand, even in cases where they may not directly relate. Like this (over four pages:
"It snowed some more last night,
and I don't even like the snow.
It's too bright out here.
I'd like a fish.
Where are all the fish?!
GET OUT HERE!
I'm not buoyant enough.
I sink like a dumb rock."
Buoyant is about as tough as Penguin Problems gets, vocabulary-wise. But can't you just hear the penguin's tone, alternating between whiny and belligerent?
Lane Smith's illustrations show the penguin as sleepy in his earliest cranky moments of the story. He's also identical-looking to all of the other penguins. This is one of his complaints. The funniest illustration is one in which the penguin laments looking silly when he waddles. There's a page split into four panel. The first three show the penguin tilting in one direction, then another. In the last panel he stands there and says "See?". I snorted with laughter. There's also a funny bit in which he's looking for his parents, but can't find them because all of the penguins look the same. Near the end, when the penguin rails against his many problems, and the fact that "nobody even cares", his slumping posture will be recognized by parents everywhere.
It's a fact that at least ought to be self-evident that kids like books about penguins. The little unnamed penguin in Penguin Problems has particular appeal, by virtue of his delightfully cranky behavior. And I love the fact that he is NOT, in fact, reformed instantly after being shown the error of his ways. Jory John and Lane Smith make a good team - the interplay between text and illustrations is both seamless and humorous. Penguin Problems belongs in libraries and preschool / kindergarten classrooms everywhere. Recommended!
Publisher: Random House Children's Books (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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