Monday, April 5, 2010

365 Penguins

By Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joelle Jolivet,

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006

$17.95, ages 4-8, 48 pages

Bold graphics of penguins accumulating in the house of a family of four highlight this unique book about one scientist's offbeat solution to help penguins relocate from the South Pole.

In this large-format book, the family gets a package in the mail every day of the year containing a penguin and tries to figure out how to keep them all happy, healthy and organized.

First the family tries arranging them in file cabinets, then stacking them into a cube until the four become so overwhelmed that they begin to live penguin, think penguin and become penguin.

Finally after a year, Uncle Victor, the ecologist, shows up in his parka and Birkenstocks to explain the mystery and trucks all but one of the penguins (a total of 364) to the North Pole.

But now that family life is returning to normal, what's this big, new package at the front door?

Best Parts: Jolivet's images, all in black, white, orange and blue, pull you into the mounting chaos, as an unprepared family tries to keep track of a fast-growing colony of endangered birds which they know very little about.

I loved the absurdity of the father trying to stack 216 penguins into a cube shape and thinking he could file them away into a cabinet, and how excited my 7-year-old son got every time the family tried to figure out how many penguins they'd organized into a cube or drawers.

Fromental poses a multiplication problem for the reader to figure out, then hides the answer upside down at the bottom of the page. Adding to the fun, readers are invited find a blue-footed penguin tucked in among the flock.

Uncle Victor's imaginative, yet dubious scheme to save penguins shows how difficult it is to help threatened species and how desperate the situation can become.

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