Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, March 31, 2014

They're Here...They're There...They're A Passel Of Penguins

Given their coloration and mannerisms penguins attract a good number of fans.  It's highly unlikely any of my students will ever see them in the wild, considering they reside beneath the equator in the Southern Hemisphere. This does not deter their enthusiasm one little bit.  When Happy Feet was released more than seven years ago, penguins' popularity increased tenfold.

Their body shape, tuxedo-like feather placement coupled with their movement on land make penguins the perfect characters in stories about babies, mothers and family dynamics.  In her debut picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere (Philomel Books, 2012)  Melissa Guion acquainted readers with a penguin who enjoyed her solitude but did have days when she felt lonely.  Imagine her surprise when she discovered a top hat floating in the water near her ice floe one day.

When first one, then another and yet one more baby penguin popped out of the hat, her astonishment grew.  In short order there were oodles of baby penguins.  Alone and lonely had been replaced with busy, happy and a whole lot of play.

Hold on to your top hats!  Melissa Guion has written and illustrated another title filled with this wonderful Mama and her babies.  Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! (Philomel Books) follows these lively birds during their learning of penguin-ish antics.

Once there was a family of penguins.  A mama penguin...
and lots and lots of baby penguins.

Each day was filled to the brim with activities.  Swimming, sliding and waddling took their proper position at the beginning of the week.  While preening has its place, it wasn't exactly a crowd favorite.

When Friday rolled around it was plain to see the joy on all those penguin faces (and surely their stuffed stomachs were mighty pleased too).  Lessons on fishing were positively popular.  Closing out the week's learning was the best thing of all, squawking.

Taking a much-needed nap after six days of teaching her babies, Mama is filled with pride for each and every one.  After offered words of encouragement, Mama questioned one of the baby penguin's replies.  Little did she know what they had been planning for her?  No one could have asked for a better answer.

The sheer charm of this title is in the simplicity of the text.  Melissa Guion has a gift in stating the known so even the youngest readers can follow the narrative.  Her commentary sentences after the daily statements make readers feel like wanted members of the penguin population.  Every time this title is read it's easy to hear the various voices and sense the range of emotion behind the words.  Here is a single example.

And waddling on Wednesday.
Waddling was harder than it looked.

The first thing you notice when looking at the matching dust jacket and book case is the return of the colorful balls and ribbon seen in the first book.  (They magically appeared from the top hat along with the penguins.)  The illustrations on the front and the back are similar to ones appearing in the body of the title.  Having one of the penguin babies looking at the ISBN is a nice touch.

The shading of the turquoise blue along with the liberal use of white space in the portrayed scenes easily transports readers to the colder region where this penguin family resides.  Details in body movement and facial expression attained with the minimum of lines sets the watercolor and pencil artwork of Melissa Guion apart from others.  Her penguins have pizzazz.

How can you not fall in love with a penguin swimming on his back blowing out a stream of water, penguins building ice castles, a conga line of penguins grasping the colored ribbon, the seal friend who learns along with them, and Mama covering her ears during squawking practice?  Careful readers will notice in several of the illustrations the penguins carefully preparing something special for Mama.  Bringing back the enchanted top hat as an element in many of the pictures adds to the continuity.

I think my favorite two-page illustration is of the squawking on Saturday.  Every single pictured penguin is in a different position and their enthusiasm is evident; so is Mama's tolerance for the noise.  With little effort you can envision the joyful hullabaloo.

Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! written and illustrated by Melissa Guion is a title meant to be shared with others...repeatedly.  It's one of those books which creates a sense of warmth, belonging and security between the reader and listener whether it's one-on-one or with a group.  You can pair it with the titles by Salina Yoon, Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin on Vacation  and Penguin in Love, Kristi Valiant's Penguin Cha-Cha and Toni Buzzeo's and David Small's One Cool Friend.

To learn more about Melissa Guion and her work visit her website by following the link embedded in her name.  Be sure to check out her links.  This title was recently reviewed by author Julie Falatko (Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)) on Katie Davis Brain Burps About Books.

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