Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Folx and children of all ages, I present… The Greatest Show Penguin!

The Greatest Show Penguin, by Lucy Freegard, (Feb. 2021, Pavilion), $22.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-483-4

Ages 3-7

Poppy is a show penguin descending from a long line of show penguins. She’s been in show business from early on, and the audience loved her, but she wasn’t enjoying herself. She didn’t like the crowds, bright lights, and noises, and, despite worrying about disappointing her family, stops performing, only to discover a talent for the backstage business of putting on a show! The Greatest Showpenguin is an engaging story about finding your talents and discovering your strengths. Poppy’s parents are supportive and encourage her to pursue what makes her happy; Poppy is happy when she feels in control of her life and her environment, which will resonate with readers. The illustrations are cheery, colorful but not overwhelming. Endpapers feature Poppy, rolling in a hoop, across the spreads. A fun storytime that would pair nicely with Hannah E. Harrison’s Extraordinary Jane (2014).

 

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade

Spy Penguins are on the scene!

At the beginning of the school year, Macmillan sent me a box of new fiction to check out; I’ve been working my way through it, but had to take some time to post about the Spy Penguins books by Sam Hay, with illustrations by Marek Jagucki. These books are hilarious and loaded with wacky adventures! I read both books in the series so far (there’s a third one coming in September 2020), and have started reading the first book to my kiddo. He’s thoroughly enjoying them. So let’s take a look at the newest dynamic duo, The Spy Penguins.

Spy Penguins, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Marek Jagucki, (Sept. 2018, Feiwel & Friends), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250188380

Ages 7-11

The first book in the new Spy Penguins series introduces us to Agent 00Zero and Q, better known as Jackson and his best friend, Quigley. They’re two young penguins who have big dreams of joining the FBI (Frosty Bureau of Investigation). Jackson wants to be a field agent, just like his Uncle Bryn, while Quigley wants to be the gadget guy, creating all sorts of cool inventions, just like his cousin, Sunny. The problem? They’re a little young, a little dorky, and have a gift for getting into trouble. But when rare fish start disappearing from the aquarium, jeopardizing their friend’s Lily’s dad’s job and reputation, the two agents-in-training get down to business! But can the two crack the case AND avoid being the next to disappear?

Spy Penguins is just fun to read. There’s some good world-building, with penguin-related vocabulary (flipper and ice-related terms, krill-sized problems), and creative backgrounds for the side characters, like Jackson’s Type-A mom, who is a “truth magnet” that can track you down and whose temper is measured in shark levels, or Jackson’s father, a more creative type who constantly creates new rooms to add on to the family home. Jackson and Quigley make a great and lovable team, and the action and fast-paced storytelling will ensure that kids will want to spend time with these two – and their extended group of family and friends – again. Black and white illustrations add to the fun and the story, providing a visuals and a solid framework around the story.

Spy Penguins: The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Marek Jagucki, (Sept. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250188588

Ages 7-11

Jackson and Quigley are back, and just in time! Jackson’s Uncle Bryn, actual member of the FBI (Frosty Bureau of Investigation), has been hypnotized and is on a crime spree! The two wannabe-agents-in-training have to figure out what happened to Uncle Bryn, prove his innocence, and dodge Jackson’s mom, who still has them on punishment from the last adventure!

Picking up immediately after the events of the first Spy Penguins novel, The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream begins with Jackson and Quigley scrubbing seagull poop as part of their punishment, meted out by Jackson’s mom. But things take a turn when they stop at the ice cream parlor and meet Uncle Bryn and two other FBI agents, who are eating a weirdly glowing ice cream and don’t acknowledge the two. Sure, it’s strange, since Uncle Bryn is Jackson’s favorite uncle; when they discover that Uncle Bryn is wanted for robbery, they know something is REALLY up. Loaded with more gadgets, delicious (and mind-altering) ice cream, and new ways of trying to avoid Jackson’s mom, The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream is every bit as much fun as Spy Penguins. More characters get fleshed-out backstories, including Quigley’s tech whiz cousin, Sunny and antagonist Hoff Rockhopper. The inventions are straight-up hilarious this time around, including a hat that’s supposed to deflect seagull poop and a suit made of sardine poop that should (emphasis on “should”) render the wearer invisible. The illustrations and fast-paced, fun writing will keep readers coming back for more.

If you have readers who love Snazzy Cat Capers, introduce them to Jackson and Quigley. If these characters all existed in the same universe, I’d be thrilled. (CROSSOVER!)

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Penguin, Adventurer, Treasure Hunter: Mr. Penguin has it all!

Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure, by Alex T. Smith, (April 2019, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-120-1

Ages 8-12

Mr. Penguin is ready for an adventure! He opens up a small office, dons a dashing hat, packs a lunch of fish finger sandwiches, and waits for a phone call. When Boudicca Bones, from the Museum of Extraordinary Objects calls him to hunt down a lost treasure somewhere in the museum, he and his sidekick, Colin the Spider, are ready! The only thing is, treasure bandits have escaped from prison and have managed to find their way into the museum, too. It’s up to Mr. Spider and Colin to keep one step ahead of the bandits and keep themselves safe in the process!

Written by the author of the Claude chapter book series, Mr. Penguin is a perfect next step for intermediate readers who are ready to take on meatier chapter books, but aren’t quite ready for that big jump into middle grade fiction. Mr. Penguin is hilariously earnest, often stumbling into situations where his smarter, less verbal colleague, Colin, can save the moment. There’s a plot twist that readers will laugh out loud about

The artwork is largely black and white, with pops of orange to make images pop. If you have Claude fans – and why wouldn’t you? – or have readers that love adventure, hand them Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure.

 

Posted in picture books

Chilly DaVinci is a Renaissance penguin… sorta.

Chilly DaVinci, by J. Rutland, (Dec. 2018, NorthSouth Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9780735842830

Ages 6-8

Chilly DaVinci is a penguin who’s not like the other penguins on his iceberg home, DaVinci. He builds things while the others do more “penguin” things. But his machines don’t always work, so when his latest contraption cracks the ice and puts the group in danger from a nearby orca, Chilly knows he has to make things right. After some trial and error, and taunting from Chilly’s nemesis, Vinnie, Chilly manages to save his group and land them safely back on Vinci. Chilly’s inventions are inspired by Leonardo DaVinci’s inventions, including a flying contraption. An afterword reminds readers to think about the process rather than the reward, like DaVinci, and to think outside the box (or ‘berg).

Chilly DaVinci is inspired by Leonardo DaVinci, with sepia-toned blueprints paced with the penguins story. The storyline itself is a little jumbled, with side conversations and random thoughts popping up throughout the text; readers may tangent off on these. The watercolor-style artwork makes for cute penguins, and DaVinci is especially wide-eyed and rocks a pair of giant glasses, giving him an egghead-type of nerdy cool.

Better for independent reading than storytime, but fun for penguin fans.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Pride! And Tango Makes Three!

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell/Illustrated by Henry Cole, (April 2005, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9780689878459

Recommended for readers 4-8

And Tango Makes Three is a classic in children’s and LGBT literature. It’s based on the true story of two penguins at the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, and the little penguin they hatched together. Roy and Silo were (are?) are pair of penguins that discovered each other in 1998; they walked together; bowed to each other, swam together, even built a nest together. But no egg was forthcoming until their keeper, a nice man named Mr. Gramzay, put a fertile egg in their nest. The two penguins cared for the egg until it hatched, and Mr. Gramzay named him Tango, because “it takes two to make a Tango”. Could you squeal from the adorableness? So Tango made three; a happy little penguin family.

This sweet story about family caused an uproar you wouldn’t believe, because – GASP – two male penguins were depicted in a loving relationship AND as parents! Could you even? (It’s like… adoption never existed, amirite?) Poor little Tango and his dads made a lot of people nervous, and as a result, And Tango Makes Three has topped the 10 Most Challenged Books List between 2006 and 2010, and still gets people riled up 13 years later. That said, And Tango Makes Three also received a lot of awards, including designation as an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book (2006); the ASPCA’s Henry Bergh Award (2005); The Gustavus Myer Outstanding Book Award (2006); Nick Jr. Family Magazine’s Best Book of the Year (2006); Bank Street College’s Best Book of the Year (2006); the Cooperative Children’s Book Council choice, and Notable Social Studies Trade Book (2006); and it was a Lambda Literary Award finalist (2006). Not too shabby!

And Tango Makes Three is a story about love, family, and community. No one at the zoo gives a second thought to Roy and Silo’s relationship, and seriously, do you think kids who come to see the animals do? It’s a story of family and how, for one couple, a baby made them complete. Henry Cole captures the spirit of New York’s Central Park with his soft watercolors, and make Roy and Silo come to life with expressive facial and body expressions. If this isn’t on your shelves or in your storytimes – Father’s Day is coming! – please add it. And hug your dad(s).

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Follow a penguin chick’s daily adventures One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Anarctic

antarctic_1One Day On Our Blue Planet… In the Antarctic, by Ella Bailey (April 2016, Nobrow), $16.95, ISBN: 9781909263673
Recommended for ages 3-7
Join an Adélie penguin chick as she gets breakfast from her mother and heads out into the giant world on her own! We see her jump into the water and swim, searching for food, encountering whales and seals, and making sure to avoid becoming someone else’s dinner! Along the way, readers learn about how penguins like our little Adélie friend will travel for years before returning to solid land, how penguin bodies develop to keep warm, what they eat, and meet other types of penguins and sea animals.
Adorable, child-friendly, cartoony illustrations introduce us to all sorts of sea life, including a warty squid porpoise, Antarctic krill, leopard seal, and humpback whale. This is a fun introduction to the Antarctic for young audiences, with an animal kids already love: Penguins! Books like this help turn kids on to nonfiction – pair it with some Salina Yoon for a great penguin storytime, or have a nature read-aloud by pairing with the first book in the series, One Day On Our Blue Planet… In the Savannah.
penguins

Ella Bailey is an illustrator and writer. You can see more of her illustrations at Ohh Deer, and you can see some more art from One Day On Our Blue Planet… In the Antarctic right here.

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Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

Blue Whale Blues: A good friend always helps cheer you up!

blue-whale-bluesBlue Whale Blues, by Peter Carnavas (Kane Miller, Sept. 2015), $22.99, ISBN: 978-1610674584

Recommended for ages 3-7

Blue Whale is singing the blues about life’s little obstacles, but his friend Penguin is always there to cheer him up. Can the poor whale ever learn to laugh at himself and make lemonade out of life’s lemons?

This is an adorable story about something kids (and adults) will recognize right away – letting the little things get to you, and the importance of having a friend there to help you shake off the blues. Blue Whale sings about his “Blue Whale Blues”, but Penguin always jumps in with a better way of handling life’s little trials. Blue Whale Blues is about the importance of having a friend to boost you when you’re feeling down, but also the value in laughing at yourself – something Whale eventually learns. Preschoolers will love the cartoony art and the upbeat ending. Grownups, make up your own Blue Whale Blues tune and sing along – the kids will love it!

Blue Whale Blues is a fun addition to storytime and classroom libraries. It’s available through Usborne as well as through online retailers.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads

The Angry Little Puffin clears up some confusion

puffinThe Angry Little Puffin, by Timothy Young (Sept. 2014, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-4387

Recommended for ages 5-8

“Oh, look at that cute little penguin!” This little puffin has had it up to HERE with being mistaken for a penguin, and he’s going to let everyone know the differences between puffins and penguins – RIGHT NOW.

What follows is an adorably illustrated lesson on puffins: where they live, what they eat, different types of puffins, and their ability to fly (versus flightless penguins). The puffin’s rant isn’t fruitless; he discovers that there’s at least one little girl out there who understands the difference between penguins and puffins, something that hopefully tides him over for the next round of onlookers ready to see the “happy little penguin”.

What a great way to conduct a nature lesson! I’d love to use this book in an animal storytime, and I’d love to see teachers using this book in their Kindergarten and first grade classes. The illustrations are adorable, eye-catching, and use bright colors (especially on the puffin’s beak!). Fonts are large, in word balloons to denote dialogue, and bolded for easy reading. The puffin has character, with facial expressions and body gestures that teachers can use for emphasis during a read-aloud, and that kids will immediately recognize, whether it’s frustration or happiness.

The Angry Little Puffin just published on September 28, so ask your bookstore to order a copy, or buy it on Amazon.com.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Bird & Squirrel on Ice – A New Adventure!

bird and squirrel on iceBird & Squirrel on Ice, by James Burks (Sept. 2014, Scholastic Graphix), $8.99, ISBN: 9780545563185

Recommended for ages 7-12

Bird & Squirrel is an adorable, fun graphic novel series for younger readers. The series follows the adventures of two friends: Bird, a bright yellow bird, and his buddy, Squirrel, a blue squirrel with an acorn hat. Bird seems to blunder into things, and Squirrel plays the voice of reason.

In the second book in this series, Bird & Squirrel on Ice, the two friends find themselves in the South Pole, befriended by a group of penguins that swear Bird is their Chosen One – he will fight the giant killer whale that bullies them, threatening to eat them if they don’t make an offering of food to him. They’re going to starve if they need to keep feeding this whale! Bird is only too thrilled to bask in the accolades, but Squirrel knows something’s up – and sure enough, it’s a doozy. With the help of their new penguin friend, Sakari, maybe they can just make it out after all.

This book is an adorable look at friendship. It uses the “Odd Couple” model, with two contrasting personalities, but who ultimately fit together nicely. It’s a sitcom, set in a graphic novel: the situation is set up, the problem introduces itself, and the resolution plays out. There’s some fun dialogue, and the cartoon art is adorable and eye-catching, with bright colors that will draw all readers in.

This is a great addition to graphic novel collections for younger readers: there’s a plucky female heroine, and there are strong themes about friendship and honesty. Pick this one up when it publishes in September, and check out the first book, Bird & Squirrel on the Run.