This picture book is full of the narrator’s problems. Which means they’re the penguin kind. But basically they’re the kinds of problems anyone can relate to. The kind that stem from being bummed out about every little thing and how the world and our place in it sometimes feels completely utterly wrong, wrong, wrong.
Luckily, this little guy is hilarious.
Penguin’s problems include a cold beak and a lack of fish, the too-salty ocean, the inability to fly, and the way everybody looks the same. This narrator even mistakes the wrong penguin for his own mother. See?
The voice here is downright hysterical and as a reader you’re right there with the narrator’s list of grumbles. Until. There’s a big until in this book. The until is for a walrus. When the walrus talks, the whole tone changes. No more clipped complaints. Instead, a long zen speech about mindfulness ensues. And you know what? It works! It works in the book as a technique and it works for our little penguin’s problems. Well, sort of. You know how it is when you’re trying to be mindful and grateful and stuff. Your beak might still get cold.
A perfect prescription for a grumbly kind of mood or a book for when you want a good laugh. Penguin Problems is super clever and amusing at the same time and one of my top-shelf picture books in recent memory.
My favorite part of the book (aside from the waddle demonstration) is the “Everybody looks the same as me” section. So, I thought this craft called for not just one penguin, but many penguins. The kind that all look pretty much the same. Enter, penguin paper dolls!
(Extra points if you spot one that’s slightly different!)
What you need:
Black marker; orange marker
Black colored pencil or marker
Fold an 8 1/2 by 11” sheet of paper into quarters long ways and then cut along the folds. With one long strip, fold in half and in half again until it’s all folded like a book. Then, unfold and refold accordion style.
Draw half a penguin shape along the left/folded edge of the top of the accordion booklet making sure its wing extends beyond the edge of the paper. Cut around that shape and unfold to see your paper doll penguins! Then, draw in the eyes and belly and color in. Voila! Penguins holding hands. (Repeat if you want more penguin chains.)
These would be cute on a wall, in a doorway, or as company any place. It’s nice to have company when you’re dealing with so many problems, right?
read the book, make a string of penguin paper dolls!
Both the release of A Child of Books and a new school year got me thinking about wonderful picture books that celebrate reading. So here goes—some of my favorites that say cheers to a good book, to reading, to story itself:
“The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws…”
So starts this genius picture book.
And then, different beings see that cat walking through the world. And they all see the cat differently according to their own perspectives, interpretations, and even the way their sense of sight works. Those whiskers, ears, and paws are not as fixed as they may first appear.
Brendan Wenzel has created a book that explores subjectivity and imagination through how one cat can contain multitudes and many disparate qualities depending on who’s doing the seeing. (And, by extension, how all the things and people and events in the world contain multitudes if you look from different points of view.)
Not to mention that the mediums and evocations of the art are as varied as the perspectives. I also love the furry endpapers.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Let’s take a look. Is the seer up close or far away? In a bowl, like the fish? On its back like the flea? In the sky like the bird?
What does the seer see when it sees a cat? A friend or foe? Something innocuous or something threatening?
Does the seer see in pixels or in black and white? In infrared like the snake? Those are probably my favorite spreads: the bee, the snake, and the skunk. How fun to imagine how other creatures see the world! And how important to imagine how other humans see the world too.
In the end, the cat is all of these things.
What do you see when you see a cat? What do you see when you see this or that? What do you see when you see yourself?
Big thanks to Chronicle Books for images! A perfect publisher for this book as its motto is “see things differently”!
And you may want to check out the activity kit for the book too.
Emily Arrow has stopped by once before and I couldn’t be more honored and delighted that she’s here once again to share her singular talents and premiere her “They All Saw a Cat” song for you!
Could there be a more perfect summer reading tribute? This picture book is about the joy of reading—alone. Only in this case, the main character can never get to the alone part. That’s because this lively, clever story is full of spoiler alerting animals. Without the alerts and just the spoilers. Any reader can relate.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
All the boy wants is to dive into and finish his book without being disturbed. But no matter how hard he tries, some animal who loves to read comes along and spoils all the juicy parts.
So he finds an unspoiled book and sneaks away. But things don’t go as planned.
Can we talk about Isabelle Roxas’s illustrations? The oversized glasses. The grape rhino. In a cave, in ice, or in a jungle, the colors and patterns pop on the page. And the hide and seek animals! There’s more to those yellow tree trunks than at first meets the eye. There are so many storytelling details like that. The art starts in muted, earthy tones of yellow and brown. And when things get going, when something crucial changes, the palette turns to blues and purples. There is so much style and substance in this artwork.
That dragonfly there? He’s important. He’s the only one who doesn’t get to give anything away. But if he’d finished his sentence, he would have. Let’s just say our main character is about to engage in the story in a pretty big way.
This book celebrates the way reading can be an immersive experience. You might just get soaked.
You know what every reader needs? Reading glasses. And not necessarily the kind that help you see better. The kind that let everyone know you’re reading alone and not to be disturbed (or have the story spoiled).
So, I give you pipe cleaner Do Not Disturb Glasses!
All you need is pipe cleaners, that staple of kids crafts, and a pair of scissors. Then, shape and bend and and twist and cut away! A kid can make the glasses while a grownup is probably better suited to make the letters (and make the cuts). But anyone can wear them once they’re done! You can even custom-size a pair to its owner. One tip is to connect the letters to one another to form a kind of base/underline. That way, you can more easily twist them onto the glasses. Another tip—the round lenses are actually a double layer of pipe cleaners in order to keep the front edge tidy, not showing the fastening of letters to lens. Big thanks to my dude, Todd Davis, for crafting the glasses with more finesse than I could ever muster.
I’m giving away a copy of Let Me Finish! that’s autographed by both Minh Lé & Isabel Roxas! (And there will be a few other goodies in the winner’s envelope as well.)
This Picture Book Life is three years old this month. Woo hoo!
The Importance of Being Three by Lindsay Ward (2016) is a joyfully good book to celebrate threes. And while a perfect toddler birthday gift, I think it works pretty well for a picture book blog third birthday too.
“Three bears, three pigs. Three kittens, too!
Three primary colors—red, yellow, and blue…
I’ve learned so much since I was two.”
To thank you for reading along here, I’m giving away a copy of The Importance of Being Three. Just leave a comment below for a chance to win.
(Open to N. America only; ends Saturday, July 23 at midnight PST.)
And cheers to the next year of picture books brought to life! I hope you’ll join me.