Tag Archives: penguins

PPBF – Polar Bear Island

As my last Perfect Picture Book post of 2018, I wanted to feature a new picture book that I first learned about from two friends who had interviewed the author and reviewed the book, that concerns welcoming others in a very kid-friendly way, and that is full of wintry fun. I think I’ve succeeded! And, as it’s my last post of 2018, I want to wish all who celebrate a blessed Christmas and everyone a wonderful New Year! See you in 2019!

Title: Polar Bear Island

Written By: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrated By: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books/2018

Suitable for Ages: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: inclusivity; polar bears; penguins; differences; immigration; welcoming others

Opening:

POLAR BEAR ISLAND was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.

But Kirby waddled where the wind blew, and today she was floating toward paradise.

Brief Synopsis:

When a penguin lands on Polar Bear Island, shares new items and ideas, and then her family joins her, the polar bears are happy to try the newcomers’ treats, except Mayor Parker, at least at first.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the maze, word search, and other activities in the Activity Kit;
  • Become an AmBEARssador and welcome newcomers, learn about other countries, and much more;
  • Check out the Discussion Guide for more ways to explore the themes in Polar Bear Island;
  • Enjoy some wintry fun: sledding, skiing, ice skating, hot cocoa, and maybe even a snow cone or two. Like Kirby and the penguins, you even could design your own wintry gear.

Why I Like this Book:

Polar Bear Island is a fun book to read and reread, but it contains an important message about welcoming others, too. Kids, like young polar bears, are often open to new ideas and new friends. But narrow-minded adults, or polar bear mayors, may have other ideas and try to keep things always the same or to themselves. But when the newcomers come to the rescue, even a grumpy old bear can’t resist.

Among the many picture books about immigration and welcoming newcomers I’ve read (and regular readers know that is many), I think Polar Bear Island is one of the better ones for younger children to help build empathy for newcomers, as it provides concrete examples of how newcomers enrich communities, and it shows how ridiculous and wrong grumpy old bears (and people) can be. I think kids especially will enjoy reading about the penguins’  inventions that are fun to say and try to picture (or even make). Who doesn’t love “Flipper Slippers”? Or a sled that’s a bed?

Villalobos’ illustrations are equally fun and child-friendly. And although the setting is a white snow-covered island set in a blue sea inhabited by, you guessed it, white polar bears, Villalobos manages to include many bright and colorful details, like the bright Flipper Slippers and hats on every penguin.

A Note about Craft:

In Polar Bear Island, Bonilla makes difficult subjects, immigration and welcoming “others”, accessible to young children. How does she do it? First, she introduces readers to Parker, the mayor, who is a caricature of a character: the proverbial grumpy old bear who even underlines “other” in the sign that states they are not welcome. Bonilla then sets up an absurd situation: a penguin, normally found in the Antarctic, travels by boat (suitcase in flipper) to the Artic. As the pair, and others, interact, Bonilla slips in playful language, like Flipper Slippers, my all-time favorite. Finally, Bonilla and the team at Sterling created an awesome Activity Kit, a Discussion Guide for teachers, parents and librarians, and even an AmBEARssadors Program – sign me up!

Visit Bonilla’s website to learn more about this storyteller and children’s author; see also an interview and review of Polar Bear Island at Maria Marshall’s The Picture Book Buzz, and an interview and review by Kathy Halsey at the Grog.

Villalobos is a Spanish illustrator. See more of her work at her website.

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!

PPBF – Little Penguins

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!

9780553507713_p0_v1_s192x300Title: 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!

PPBF – Grumpy Pants

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Sunday is Remembrance Sunday in the UK and Commonwealth countries – both occasions to honor military veterans, to remember those who died serving their countries, and to reflect on peace and conflict. Rather than choose a book that highlights military service, war or peace, I’ve chosen a book that, I believe, will help kids express and overcome the negative feelings which, if left unchecked, spiral into negative action against themselves or others. Onto today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9780807530757_p0_v1_s118x184Title: Grumpy Pants

Written & Illustrated By: Claire Messer

Publisher/date: Albert Whitman & Company/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Grumpiness, coping, self-soothing, penguins, moods

Opening: “Penguin was in a bad mood. A very bad mood.”

Brief Synopsis: Penguin is in a bad mood, and he tries different solutions to overcome his negative feelings.

Links to Resources:

  • Think about what you do when you feel grumpy, sad, angry or anxious;
  • Draw faces that express feelings of grumpiness, sadness, angriness, nervousness;
  • Try coping skills, like a stress ball, blowing bubbles, etc.

Why I Like this Book: With few words combined with hand-printed illustrations, Grumpy Pants shows kids, and maybe a few adults, ways to calm down and feel better when they’re feeling grumpy. I think the simplicity of the illustrations will focus even the fussiest kid’s eyes on Penguin and the steps he takes to feel better. The words and simple illustrations are a perfect blueprint to feeling better or could act as a discussion prompt for ways children might help themselves feel better.

A Note about Craft: Like Jane Yolen and What to Do With a Box, author-illustrator Claire Messer does not name the Main Character: he simply is “penguin.” Because he has no name, I think kids will be able to better identify with him.

I mentioned above that I like this book because it acts as a blueprint. But blueprints are only helpful if they can be read. So what techniques does Ms. Messer use to enable young children to read her blueprint to beat the grumpies? First, she uses few words and very simple language and sentence structure. She even breaks a few rules, including in the first sentence (“Penguin was in a bad mood.”), telling, not showing and using a form of “to be.” She also repeats the term “grumpy” quite often, in a good way, leaving no doubt as to Penguin’s true feelings. Penguin addresses his readers midway through the book after a scene that’s sure to bring chuckles or at least a smile, “I’m still grumpy, you know”, thereby luring the readers further into the story. Finally, to accompany the sparse, very direct text, Ms. Messer utilizes simple linoleum prints, with a limited but bright color palette, set against a white background – Penguin could be anywhere, perhaps right in your home.

Grumpy Pants is Claire Messer’s debut picture book. It received starred reviews from Kirkus,  Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal, and was included in a review about moody picture books in the New York Times Book Review.

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!