Monday, March 16, 2009

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis - review

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
Edna's whole world is white and black and blue, and she yearns for something else.
"'There is white ice for sliding,' says Edna. 'There is black night for seeing stars. There is blue sea for hunting fish. But there must be something else.'"
She is not Lost, or gay, or afraid to swim, or an unusual color (Not that I am saying there are too many penguin books out there - hey man you can NEVER have too many penguin books. Penguins are perfect for picture books - they are graphically interesting and inherently funny. My dad says they're pesty, but more on that later. I think they're funny - they waddle.)

I could quibble and say that Edna, living as she does in an environment wholly populated by carnivores, is surely acquainted with the color red, in addition to white, black, and blue, but really, how is Antoinette Portis going to work that in? "There is red blood when the seals come to visit." Yeah, no.

So anyway, Edna goes looking. And do you know what she finds? MY DAD, circa 1963! (or my uncle, circa 1961-1963, or my brother in 2001) Edna stumbles upon a detachment of scientists from USAP (formerly the United States Antarctic Research Program), who have been wearing the same shade of orange (cosmonaut orange, for high visibility on the ice) for more than fifty years.

Oh, wait, you wanted to know about the book? Well come on, it's Antoinette Portis. Not a Box is one of the most genius kid books of ALL TIME, and A Penguin Story is both different - doesn't have that empowering kid-is-the-one-who-gets-to-say-no thing going on - and the same - same terrific, simple drawings, excellent use of a limited color palette. Also, one strong, determined, curious, creative kid with a lot going on upstairs.

Further endorsement: immediately after reading A Penguin Story, the men in my family (aged 5, 7, and 44; none of whom have been to Antarctica - yet) grabbed the sidewalk chalk and drew portraits of Edna on our front walk. See if you can guess which man drew which picture:

A Portis penguin, by Mao

Bob draws Edna the penguin

Zhou's Portis penguin


Candace Ryan said...

This is a too funny review! By the way, I totally love the sidewalk penguin portraits. (:

Wendy said...

You can't beat pictographs! Sometimes when I drive by the school I can see on the sidewalk the kids have drawn things. A couple of months ago they had done a long history timeline down the length of the sidewalk. It was fun walking it and reading what they wrote.