As snow has fallen across most of the northeastern US these past few weeks, I recall fondly the wonder and excitement of my children as the first flakes blanketed the grass, bare tree branches, sidewalks and streets. They begged to go play, and we spent many hours romping, sledding and sometimes even shoveling. Today’s Perfect Picture Book evokes this time of happy play for me. Enjoy the snow!
Title: Little Penguins
Written By: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated By: Christian Robinson
Publisher/date: Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books)/2016
Suitable for Ages: 3-7
Themes/Topics: penguins, winter, snow, colors, matching
Opening: “Snowflakes? Many snowflakes. Winter is coming!”
Brief Synopsis: A family of penguins bundles up to enjoy playing in freshly-fallen snow.
Links to Resources:
- Coordinate the colors of your outfit
- Make post-snow play treats including homemade hot cocoa and warm cookies.
Why I Like this Book: This is a simple story of snowy day fun in the vein of Jack Ezra Keat’s The Snowy Day (Viking, 1963). Kids will enjoy following along as five young penguins dress in color-coordinated socks, boots, mittens and scarves and head outside to experience the deep, deeper, very deep snow. Robinson’s mix of collage and block printing puts the emphasis just where it should be – on the adorable penguins. I especially loved an all-white scene with four of the penguins and their footprints accompanied with the important question, “Where’s Mama?”.
A Note about Craft:
Little Penguins is a wonderful mentor text to explore how to leave space for the illustrator. In under 70 words, and with no attributed dialogue, Rylant invites readers to enjoy the first snowfall of winter. While her words tell a story, it is far from complete without the many layers which Robinson adds. Rylant mentions only one color, red, and mentions merely that the mittens and scarves match. Robinson adds the rest of the color story, and he even may have chosen the number of penguins to feature. He also adds a side-story about one penguin staying with Mama while the others are outside playing. Such a small detail opens a wealth of discussion possibilities: why did one penguin not follow his or her siblings? Have you ever stayed behind while others played?
To read more stories about Penguins, see Grumpy Pants (Claire Messer, Albert Whitman & Company, 2016), reviewed here last November and more recently by Picture Book Builders, which also highlighted Penguin Problems (Jory John/Lane Smith, Random House, 2016). Nerdy Book Club also reviewed Penguin Problems.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!