Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Here It Comes...

Have you been to the NOAA National Weather Service website today?  Look at this weather map!  As Kate DiCamillo's Flora would say Holy Bagumba!  There is a whole swath of winter weather combined with high winds crossing the states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.  We might actually get snow here in Lower Michigan on Saturday as the daytime high drops more than twenty degrees.

Truthfully I can hardly wait.  Winter is one of my favorite seasons for a variety of reasons.  This year it is going to be extra special as my new forever friend, Mulan, a chocolate Labrador puppy, will be seeing snow for the first time.  Anticipation is not only in the air here but within the pages of Little Penguins (Schwartz & Wade, October 25, 2016) written by award winning Cynthia Rylant and pictures by award winner Christian Robinson.  Children and children at heart rejoice!


Barely able to see out the window, a small penguin is the first to spy snow drifting down and through their open window.  Quickly four other siblings gather to gaze outside as the flakes fall in earnest.  Without a doubt winter is on its way.

Five penguins sift through a basket looking for five different sets of mittens. They must find attire for their necks and feet.  They are so excited they call out to the first penguin asking about the condition of the snow.

As is the case with storms the depth can build in a short time.  It's deep. And it gets deeper.  It's so deep they begin to look for their mother.

Whee!  There she is with the fifth little penguin.  After a day of play they all head home doing what we all do.  It's time to shed wet clothes and get ready for bed.  Sleep tight little penguins.

How can one word be filled with so much emotion? It signals a change in the seasons regardless of the calendar, it provides opportunities for fun and it gives Mother Earth a clean slate.  Cynthia Rylant is most definitely gifted in the art of simplicity.  Never using more than four words except for one particular repetitive part Rylant tells a story full of excitement and meaning for the five penguins and their parents.  She creates a rhythm by using a single word followed by two words and then three words several times then switches it up forming a new beat.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case expect to smile at the antics of these five little penguins seen from left to right, back to front. They are walking, talking, diving headfirst into the snow, sliding and strolling with purpose. Have you ever seen such charming penguins?  They certainly are creations of Christian Robinson.  His signature artwork is lively but spare.

Using acrylic paint and cut paper collage he fashions images extending and highlighting the text.  On the opening and closing endpapers readers are given a panoramic view of the little penguins and their home on an ice floe.  There are fish swimming beneath the ice as a whale makes an appearance along with three lobsters.  To the left a seal swims near the fish and a mother and baby walrus sit on a nearby smaller floe. White seabirds fly in the opposite direction.  There is a mailbox outside their igloo.  On the verso and title pages Robinson has placed various geometric shapes to signify ice floes with text inside them.

All of the images span two pages with marvelous layout and design.  White space is used to great effect.  It's very clever to have each penguin wearing a different well known color; red, yellow, blue, green and pale green.  The details in their home add to the appeal of these pictures, the fish-patterned curtains, the whale weather vane on the outside of the igloo, and the ship, abacus and globe on top of their closet.

One of my many favorite illustrations (It was not easy to choose.) is when Robinson is interpreting the words Deeper.  Very deep.  There is quite a bit of white along the bottom of the two pages.  Four penguins are featured. The first and second are standing so we can see all of their bodies below their scarves. The third penguin is sinking up to his body and we see half of the head.  The fourth penguin on the far right shows all of his head with arms (flippers) outstretched for balance.  Half of his body is covered in snow.

Little Penguins written by Cynthia Rylant with pictures by Christian Robinson is an essential volume for snow and winter themed collections for our youngest readers.  It creatively captures the thrill of a first snow and shared fun.  When two masters work together expect a masterpiece.

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson and their other work please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. You can view interior images at the publisher's website.  The Horn Book Podcast 1.33 special guest is Christian Robinson.  This title is one of many highlighted by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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