cover image Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Jory John, illus. by Lane Smith. Random House, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-553-51337-0

Being a penguin is no day at the park: “It’s way too early. My beak is cold. What’s with all the squawking, you guys?” John’s bumbling, bleary-eyed penguin has a hard time on land, and the ocean depths are even worse: “Oh, great. A leopard seal. Oh, great. A shark.... What is it with this place?” Then there’s the matter of parents: “Mom?” the penguin asks another penguin near a crowd of look-alike penguins. “I literally have no idea who you are,” the other penguin replies. Just when things look hopeless, a passing walrus offers a comforting (if long-winded) sermon, and the penguin gets a moment of respite from his angst. John (I Love You Already) delivers a rat-a-tat series of laughs, and Smith’s (There Is a Tribe of Kids) mottled, minimalist polar landscapes highlight the penguin’s awkward moments. His story is classic comedy, an examination of the delicate balancing act between total despair (“I have so many problems! And nobody even cares!” the penguin cries) and the resolve to stumble on. Ages 3–7. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)