Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Penguin Story

Image courtesy - HarperCollins

Author/Illustrator: Antoinette Portis
Publisher: HarperCollins
Ages: All ages

Sometimes you’re not sure what you want but you might know exactly what you don’t want. I did not want yet another color book filled with bright primary colors and shapes for my 18 month old but I had no specifics on what I was looking for. My search led me to this wonderful find from Antoinette Portis. Her Not a Box, reviewed here by Praba, was a super hit with us!

A Penguin Story is a book of colors that is devoid of colors, except for the three that surround a penguin. White – of the snow, the Antarctic desert, the icebergs. Black – of the night sky. Blue – of the ocean as far as the eye can see.

But Edna, our protagonist, questions these limitations. Surely there must be “something else”. Something that is not black, not blue, not white. She doesn’t know what it would be, but she knows for sure that it had to be something other than the three colors she’s been seeing her whole life. Her friends want her to join their penguin pyramid, she’d rather not, because she’s busy looking. They think she’ll tire of it and join them sooner or later. But Edna tells us, determination writ large in her face, that she will never get tired of looking.

That’s when we first spot it. In the background, against the blue sky, over the white peaks. We spot something that is not black, blue or white – we see orange! Till this point in the book, the story is illustrated in only the colors the penguin sees. We haven’t seen anything other than the three colors in Edna’s life, so the jolt of bright, cheery orange comes as a pleasant surprise.

But Edna doesn’t see it, not yet. She is still searching and her search takes her far away from home, up hill, down hill, through night and day, when suddenly she stumbles right into a dome of orange.

The exhilaration of having found the object of her quest washes in color all over her. “I knew it! The world isn’t only white, black and blue!”

She shares her discovery with the rest and they all rush to see the orange “something else”. There’s not just one orange dome. There are many things orange here, including people in orange suits. There are also some boxes, in brown! What a bonus!

The people in orange befriend the black and white natives and when it is time to leave, they leave behind a souvenir that is orange, of course! But Explorer Edna can’t stop there. The thrill of having found what she was looking for, only makes her thirsty for more. She wonders what else there might be. That’s when we first see it…in the background…a splash of …..something else, that is not blue, not black, not white, not orange.

My 18 month old was content with pictures of penguins, and my 4 year old was engrossed in the story. Especially when he found the orange object before Edna did, and he knew that she’d find it too. He couldn’t wait to turn the pages to see her reaction.

Take it as a simple books of colors, or take it to a different plane and question your confines. Either way, A Penguin Story is something else.


Choxbox said...

what a pick k's mom!

sounds absolutely fab, and your review makes me really want it!

Poppins said...

OMG a book that works for both age groups? Awesome! I flipped through it in Amazon and it looks very nice.

PG said...

that was my thought too, a book for both age groups. A beautiful storyline, simple and exciting.

DDmom said...

Beautiful review K's mom. So nice to see you around :)
I can totally see my curious one exploring with Edna with as much excitement.

Chox, Poppie, at this rate, we might have to start a book exchange programme in Bangalore and mandate every one(in our network) who lands here to get us one from the list reviewed here. In return, we will load them up with Pratham, Tulika, CBT and the likes ;)
Utbt, when is ur next desh trip??

Choxbox said...

@DDMom: Brill plan! We will go straight to the airport when the folks land up and demand the books!

sathish said...

The illustration reminds me of another wordless book called Wave by Suzy Lee

utbtkids said...

One more tale with 'Penguin love' from the K and P family :)

I am sure Edna would remind every parent of one child from their clan.

ranjani.sathish said...

Beautiful review Kodi's mom !

Sheela said...

Kodi's Mom, The way you walk us through the book is what usually makes all your reviews valuable to me - to present the virtues of the book and let me "see" it in my mind through your words... And, since my wee ones are about the same age as yours, I am curious to see how it appeals to mine! Thanks!

Tharini said...

Wow. It started getting distinctly thrilling when you said we could spot the orange and not her as yet. I would love to see if this book is available here! A review so effective!

Praba Ram said...

"Take it as a simple books of colors, or take it to a different plane and question your confines."

Love the way you put it! And we can totally relate to your "plane" and his love for penguins in the homefront! :-)

Meera Sriram said...

Very well written review Kodi's mom!! The book itself - cute! Love the simplicity of it, while still being offbeat, conveying perseverence and not to forget being penguiny:)

Sheela said...

We read it umpteen times in December, KM, and sure enough, like you said, it appealed to *both* my kids (about the same age as yours)! The older one could read all the words, and the younger one just loved the illustrations :)

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