Hello, everyone! Today’s book is Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith, the story of a rather pessimistic penguin learning to appreciate his blessings.
Penguin problems: this guy has plenty. It’s too cold. The ocean smells too salty. It’s too hard to catch fish and he’s hungry. Everyone looks like him, and he looks like everyone else. It’s all got little Penguin pretty down. A friendly Walrus takes notice, and encourages Penguin to appreciate the things that make him happy, rather than his many frustrations. Will this improve the grumpy little penguin’s mood?
I had some mixed feelings about this one. The art is lovely, managing to take a somewhat barren landscape such as Antarctica and make it feel rich and majestic, and filling it with gorgeously illustrated creatures. Unfortunately, the story is a bit of a slog: Penguin’s whining is incessantly aggravating, and many of his complaints are simple problems that he himself can resolve but refuses to. Many other complaints are self-deprecating, which makes his sadness a bit more sympathetic, but when the pace stops dead during Walrus’ well-intentioned yet pedantic lecture, it’s hard to know who to root for. If the penguin has real self-esteem issues, “just cheer up” is not the right sentiment. And if Walrus is truly encouraging his optimism, well: Penguin immediately complains about Walrus’s interference, then begrudgingly admits that some things in his life are okay, then goes RIGHT BACK to whining. It’s a frustrating ending that leaves the reader feeling as though there has been no progress. There are some cute jokes and, again, the art is just lovely, but the pacing problems made it tough for a baby bookworm like JJ to get into, and I didn’t much like the overall message. If you’d like to peruse some charming Antarctic art, give this one a go. Otherwise, this might be one to skip.