Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters (Marikka Tamura)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters, written by Marikka Tamura and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, a lovely story that combines adorable penguins with a message of environmentalism.

The reader is introduced to a colony of playful penguins, living their best penguin lives. They swim and hunt for fish in the cool water, they let their fluffy feathers dry as they bask in the warm sun, they cuddle, waddle, play, and are happy. But one day, a tanker ship floats by and leaks icky black stuff into the water, which makes it no good for swimming and coats the penguins’ fluffy feathers in muck. Big Boots (humans) come to help, but the penguins are cold and scared. So the Big Boots put out a call to other Big Boots: knit sweaters for penguins!

Adorable. First, the text is delightful to read aloud; the choice for the narrative to be in penguin “voice” – using short, simple sentences to emulate the penguins’ point of view – creates a joyful and innocent tone. There is a little confusion where the message is concerned, as the story is based on a real-life incident in which knitters were asked for sweaters after an oil spill in Australia, but the sweaters were ultimately found to not be beneficial to the recovering birds. The author makes note of this in her afterward, but the wording in story is vague enough that this point may not make it across to younger readers. However, its ultimately a story of how, regardless of carelessness or good intentions, penguins are at their happiest when humans don’t interfere at all, and they are left to just be penguins. That’s a solid message. Otherwise, the colorful and darling illustrations are perfect for the style, the length was good, and JJ loved it. A clever and cute cautionary tale against human interference, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Harriet Gets Carries Away (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Harriet Gets Carries Away by Jessie Sima, an adorable fantasy about a little girl and her tendency to let her imagination run wild.

Harriet LOVES to play dress-up, and not just on Halloween. And she loves to wear costumes everywhere – to the dentist, to the park, and out in the city with her dads. On the day of her birthday (a costume party, naturally), Harriet’s dads take her to the store to get some food for the party and some party hats. Harriet dons her penguin costume – complete with smart red bow tie – and heads out with them after they give her a gentle warning: “Don’t get carried away”. But while at the store, Harriet wanders off… and finds a whole army of real penguins in the frozen section! She follows them to their hot air balloons, where she gets mixed up in the shuffle and ends up carried away to the South Pole! What follows is an adventure where Harriet gets carried away by a few more new friends. Will she be able to get back to the city in time for her party, and before her dads notice that she’s gone?

So cute. A fun ode to a child’s imagination, and how they have the ability to create entire grand adventures from a single spark of inspiration. The story itself is a gentle yet exciting adventure, and little readers will love following along. The art is adorable, using a mostly rosy/purple palette to create a warm sense of fun and wonderful endearing characters. Even the details are a treat: the casual inclusion of a multiracial LGBTQ family, the final gag showing that Harriet is not alone her imaginative tendencies, even the clever plays on the term “carried away” – it all adds up to a joyful little read. The length was great, JJ loved it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Love, Mama (Jeanette Bradley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love, Mama by Jeanette Bradley, a darling tribute to the unconditional love between mother and child.

Little Kipling the penguin is feeling pretty down. His Mama is on a long sea voyage, and he misses her terribly. He even tries to make substitutes, but it’s just not the same; Pillow Mama can’t read to him, Picture Mama doesn’t laugh at his jokes, and Snow Mama’s hugs are far too cold. But his real Mama knows that Kipling is missing her, and she sends him a care package of lovely gifts, including a paper heart she’s made and picture of her hugging that heart. Kipling feels better knowing that even if his Mama is far away, her love for him will travel whatever distance is between them to be where he is.

Adorable and sweet. Kipling and his Mama’s story has a theme familiar to any mother and child: that no matter what may separate them, a mother’s love is absolute. Adding the element of physical distance makes this a valuable story for children who may live separately from their moms, or have moms who must travel (these sorts of stories are more common for fathers, so it’s nice that long-distance moms have this to share with their little ones). The illustrations are charming and sweet, featuring round and cuddly characters in a palette of soft colors, adding to the sentimental vibe of the book. The length is fine, JJ loves anything with penguins, and well, I always love a book about a mommy and little one. A gentle tale to warm the heart, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Penguins Of America (James & Jack Patterson, with Florence Yue)

Hello, friends! We have an interesting one today: Penguins Of America, written by James and Jack Patterson with Florence Yue and illustrated by James Madsen. This one is technically not a children’s book, but a coffee table/humor book (JJ grabbed it from a shelf at the library because she loves penguins, and well, this is her blog too). However, it put a big smile on her face, so we felt it was worth reviewing regardless of its intended audience.

Journey across the United States and meet penguins from every walk of life, from the rich and glamorous to the humble blue-collar (black-collar?) workers that make things go. Peek into their lives as they go to their jobs (fish market, seal-walker, etc), spend their leisure time surfing and watching movies, follow the latest fashions (why is it called a “cat”walk, anyway?), and even get married and start families. 

This was definitely more for adults, being a satirical look at various aspects of American life. Most of the jokes would probably be over the heads of younger bookworms, and there were at least three instances that I noticed of characters smoking, plus various depictions of alcohol and slightly adult humor. However, if you can look past those, this one still had a surprising amount of appeal as a picture book! The text was presented in short segments that could be easily read aloud, the length wasn’t bad, and the art was absolutely gorgeous, lovingly rendered in great detail to show both the humorous and sincere aspects of American life, penguin style. So while this one may not be strictly for children, it WAS a treat for penguin-lovers like JJ, and would delight all ages who are fans of our formally feathered friends. Baby Bookworm approved!

Penguin Problems (Jory John & Lane Smith)

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.