Everyone Loves Penguins! by Jennifer Sniadecki
I have problems. You have problems. Our world has problems. Did you know penguins also have problems? I read many books in the year 2016, but Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith is one of the few books I labeled “5-Star Status.” Everyone loves penguins, right? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not the only reason you should pick up this picture book masterpiece.
Jory John and Lane Smith are a talented and humorous team. Before you even open the book, you notice that it’s backwards – the title page is actually on the back of the book. The front of the book is visual penguin pattern overload with a twist. Children and adults alike will try to peel the sticker that looks like a gift tag. But don’t! You won’t want to ruin the cover of your new book. The gift of reading fun continues inside the book.
The front cover flap introduces a penguin who bets the reader that he/she won’t finish. Who wants to read a book about problems? Stop right there. Put the book down. You don’t really want to read this book. The end pages are solid black – uninteresting. I recommend turning the pages anyway – see what you find.
You find a penguin lying flat on a snow bank. This lovable, yet annoying main character tells you, the reader, all about all his problems. It’s amazing how many problems penguins have! As you giggle (because these problems become increasingly hilarious as the story continues) you realize that your own overwhelming problems are a matter of perspective. A new character tells the penguin that maybe if he just thinks about life in a different way, he’ll be okay. This is true for all of us.
The wonderfully simple, yet intricate illustrations in Penguin Problems show the texture of snow and cold, making the reader think that maybe this could be part nonfiction. Weaving facts into a fictional picture book story is a talent, and Jory John and Lane Smith nailed it. I turned each page several times to gaze at the snow, the penguins, the South Pole underwater creatures. My eyes squinted when the penguin complained, “It’s too bright out here,” and my eyes widened to follow the hunt as the penguin maneuvered his way through the dark sea.
Perspective is the name of the game in Penguin Problems. Everything from the general consensus that all penguins look alike (“Everybody looks the same as me” is one of the penguin’s complaints), to the humorous point that all penguins waddle (“See?”), to the enlightening message from a new friend, help lead the reader to a new way of thinking.
Think about picking up Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith for your winter reading enjoyment. I’m sure your own problems will melt away – at least for the duration of the reading!
Jennifer Sniadecki is currently a sixth grade teacher and former literacy coach in South Bend, Indiana. She is an avid reader, and will read anything the Nerdy Book Club or her friends at Two Writing Teachers recommend. In June 2016, she received her certification as a School Librarian and is excited to serve a whole school of readers someday. Jennifer can be found on Twitter at @jdsniadecki, and contributes to #g2great chats for fun. Check out her blog at http://www.readingteacherwrites.com.