Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Life in Black and White: Penguin Problems by Jory John

Penguins are a hot property in picture book land, but for one penguin in a perpetually pessimistic mindset, the mood is perennially chilly.

My beak is cold. The ocean smells too salty today. It snowed some more last night, and I don't even like snow.

And he's getting hungry, which means he has to jump into an icy sea, where the best he can hope for is a cold, soggy fish. And where is a fish when you need one?

Pessimistic Penguin takes the plunge. But under the sea is no improvement.

It's actually F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G down there.

I sink like a rock.

Oh, great! A SHARK!

Oh, great! An ORCA!

Our despondent penguin finds himself at the end of a veritable food chain of predators--a whale chasing a shark, the shark chasing a leopard seal, and the seal chasing HIM!!

Barely escaping back on the barren shore, the depressed penguin begins a major whinge. He looks silly when he waddles. His flippers ache and he can't fly. Everyone looks alike, so he can't even find his family. To prove it, he approaches a parental-looking penguin.


"I have absolutely no idea who you are!"

Our despairing penguin needs an anti-gloom guru, which he finds in the person of a philosophic walrus, who spouts pearls of wisdom for free, advising him to see the beauty all around him, feel the sunshine on his shoulders and the love of his fellow penguins, and know that he is right where he is supposed to be, blah, blah, blah.

"Who the heck was that guy?

Walruses don't understand penguin problems!

Okay, Okay. Maybe that walrus has a point."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the sky and ocean are a nice blue.... and it's "look-for-the-silver-lining" time down in polar penguin land, in Jory John 's Penguin Problems (Random House, 2016), as our petulant penguin bucks up and determines to try to appreciate his ecological niche--just as his pretty little snowflakes morph into yet another below-zero blizzard.

Life's a icy beach for this peevish penguin, but author John's glorious whine about the injustices of polar life could make even a killer whale snicker. Caldecott artist Lane Smith does a dandy job in this repeat study in black and white, with plentiful placement of orange accents and text. For youngsters who've got a good grumble going, this little lesson in black humor will coax a grin out of the the gloomiest grinch. "Well-paced, bursting with humor, and charmingly misanthropic," counsels Kirkus Reviews.

Jory John's previously top-selling, giggle-producing, yet pessimistic books include Quit Calling Me a Monster! I Will Chomp You!, the laments of the extinct dino, All My Friends Are Dead and All My Friends Are Still Dead, and for kids a bit old for alphabet books but just right for wry wit, K is for Knifeball: An Alphabet of Terrible Advice.

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