Title: Penguin Problems
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Children’s picture book
Book format: Paperback
Description: Little Penguin has problems: his beak is cold; there’s snow everywhere; the water smells salty; he waddles; he looks the same as everybody else. No – it’s not easy being a penguin!
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is a funny book but I’m not sure if all kids will enjoy it. ‘Penguin Problems’ is A4 in size and the paperback is very thin. Inside there are thick matt pages filled with colourful illustrations and easy to read text.
The story follows one penguin who wakes up in a bad mood, feeling grumpy about everything. He complains about the cold, he complains about the noise, he complains about the snow and the sun…all he can do is be miserable about everything…until he meets a walrus. I won’t go into the details of what happens but this is a funny book with our penguin character constantly complaining about everything to do with being a penguin and penguin life. The story has been likened to ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens and it’s true that this tale takes on that very twist although with an added funny extra at the end.
The illustrations are what drive the story forward and there’s lots of them and they aren’t all the same. There are lovely close-ups of the penguin on land and I really enjoyed the way the deep sea looked with the creatures there looking very different and almost like a sort of tribal artwork compared to the way the penguins look above ground. I really like the expression on the penguin’s face. Despite the similarity between all other penguins you can see the way he expresses, and there’s a general funny feel to all the images, especially when he is with all the other penguins calling to family.
Having heard the book compared to ‘A Christmas Carol’ the ending is seemingly predictable but there’s a funny twist that makes you laugh at the end. I think kids would enjoy this book, especially for the fun images and easy to read text, however there is one page of the book which puts a whole two paragraphs in a massive block one page. The text takes up the entire page and although it’s a good piece of text which one of the characters is voicing, I can’t help but think that it could have been broken up with more images. The various things the character points out could have been shown with little images making it easier to read. While this really doesn’t spoil the plot, I’m just not sure kids would be up to reading this massive chunk of text after reading such short sentences elsewhere.
Overall I like this book. I really like the story and the silliness of it and it would be a great book to show kids who might be prone to complaining, especially around Christmastime. It’s not a complex story but it has a great moral story of being happy with what you’ve got. I think adults would enjoy this book just as much, or possibly even more than kids and it might be best to sit with kids and read this book with them (at least the first time), to make sure they understand the large chunk of text. But overall a great and funny book.
-Review first appeared online November 2017 – now republished here.
Do you like the look of this book? What do you think of penguins? Can you relate to all the complaining Little Penguin does at the start of the book? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂