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A penguin story
2009
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Edna (), Penguin; only sees three colors in her life; journeys to find more colors in the world
Genre
Fiction
Juvenile
Topics
Animals
Penguins
Colors
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

COLOR is a funny thing. A phenomenon our brains cobble together from the data streaming in from our eyes, it fills us with a whole spectrum of sensations. We chop it up into categories, giving each a name. Then, our knowing the names actually affects how we see and think about the sensations. Here are three books all about color: one is about the names, one about the phenomenon, and one just lets those sensations do their work on us, in a gratifying way. "Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors" is an illustrated poem chronicling the seasonal doings of Red, Yellow and so on, in atmospheric vignettes with a conceptual twist, and with exquisite results. The Red in the title is a cardinal, singing in springtime: "cheercheer-cheer, / each note dropping / like a cherry / into my ear." In summer, "White clinks in drinks." "Yellow melts / everything it touches . . . / smells like butter, tastes like salt." Joyce Sidman's language is vivid and deft. Slyly, she's conflating color as a sensation with color as a name: the words White and Yellow are stand-ins for ice and popcorn, the things they color. The rhetorical device is metonymy - calling an object by a related object or quality. It's wonderfully strange to read of colors with sounds, smells and tastes. But when "Red turns / the maples feathery, / sprouts in rhubarb spears," something stranger still is happening: Red is an essence, a primordial force that enters things, becomes and defines them. In winter, "Green darkens, shrinks, / stiffens into needles," a bracing image for winter's cold contractions. The language draws mystery and magic around the most familiar scenes. Edna the penguin finds "something else" besides black, white and blue in "A Penguin Story." Below, Henny Penny in "Yummy." There is no way for pictures to address this linguistic effect. The illustrator is obli- gated to paint a cardinal and ice, popcorn and pine trees. It may be the impossibil- ity of illustrating the central magic of the poem that led Pamela Zagarenski to pile on all kinds of other mystery, or at least mystifying details, in her delicately paint- ed scenes. Cardinals sing in the trees, but with crowns hovering over their heads. Images of birdcages and windows hang from the sky. To create a sense of story not present in the text, Zagarenski introduces a human figure or two; they are tiny-headed crea- tures in huge conical dresses, also wear- ing crowns and sometimes wheels under their feet. The paintings, while quite beautiful, feel obscure. A primitive quality in their style might encourage parents to give the book to children too young to respond to the poetry, but second graders and up, at least those who like language, should love it. Where "Red Sings From Treetops" plays with colors as words, Antoinette Portis's graphically bold "Penguin Story" is the polar opposite: a desire for new color experiences drives the plot. Edna the penguin, who knows only the white of snow, the blue of the sea and the black sky at night, is sure there must be "something else," and it's up to her to find it. The story, a quest to bring color into a lacking world, isn't new to children's literature, but that's all right; children who take to this book won't know the precedents. Edna's problem and its solution are a bit short on dramatic tension - her quest is fulfilled quickly and at little cost, as she stumbles on what appears to be a brilliant, orange rising sun. But the visual rewards are striking. On the next page that sun turns out to be an orange tent, part of a human expedition that includes a great deal of orange. It's no small pleasure in the written story that Edna's "something else" goes unnamed - the word "orange" never comes up. The drama is in the withholding, and little readers who know the word will want to shout it out. The same sort of withholding - of that new color, of what that sun really is - brings even more pleasure to the artwork. It's bold, simple, cleanly designed. Portis's penguins are pretty adorable, and when the whole rookery clusters knee-high around the expedition, helping them pack for home, it's a blissful scene of interspecies friendship. Color is at least as much a player in "Yummy" as in the other two books Lucy Cousins's collection of eight popular fairy tales simply delivers a lot of it. The traditional stories economically retold here (including "Henny Penny," "The Enormous Turnip" and "Little Red Riding Hood") usually feature pictures rich in detail:they work to give a flavor of the historical and cultural worlds that produced the tales. But Cousins's artistic style, closely resembling tempera painting scrawled by a child, is almost devoid of detail. Why does it feel so satisfying? Because the world of this book is, delightfully, a world made of paint. It's not history, not culture, but the feeling of the big, flat colored page that pulls you into the story. A jaunty humor shows itself in the blobby brushwork, but also in the expressions on the faces of wolves, hens or little girls (all wearing cheerful clothing of indeterminate period). Even the words get a chance to express themselves as paint: most spreads include something - a title, a quotation from the story or a bit of commentary - written across the page in thick black brushstrokes, like a child chiming in while a parent reads. It's a good take on these traditional tales for very young book-lovers. This is a book that will make you want to paint. Even if you don't immediately reach for the paintbrushes, "Yummy" offers a brilliant color experience and an introduction to fairy tales that everyone should know. You might be compelled to draw after reading "A Penguin Story," because those cute penguins are so simple practically anyone could make one. But read "Red Sings From Treetops," and I think you'll be more inclined to sing. In 'Yummy,' a jaunty humor shows in the expressions of wolves, hens and little girls. Paul O. Zelinsky has illustrated many books for children and won the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his "Rapunzel."

  Publishers Weekly Review

Edna the penguin yearns for something more stimulating than a minimalist horizon. The endless white of snow and ice, the black of the night sky and the "Blue, blue, blue. Forever" of the sky and ocean only increase her ennui. Readers know alternatives exist because a sunset-orange seaplane goes by when Edna's back is turned; brilliant green and orange endpapers, too, contrast with the limited palette and blocky compositions. Edna treks over icebergs to a revelatory destination, then brings her brood to meet a friendly human expedition camping in ambulance-orange domes and wearing matching jumpsuits; she proudly waddles home with a souvenir orange rubber glove. Portis (Not a Box) celebrates those who long for art and, with her own playful rendering, she inspires readers to celebrate, too. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

  School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2-Like the imaginative heroes of Portis's Not a Box (2007) and Not a Stick (2008, both HarperCollins), Edna yearns for something different. Though her fellow penguins are content to play and eat in their world of white snow, black night, and blue sea, she seeks something else. She finds it-a giant, bright orange research station, inhabited by orange-coated researchers. When she takes the other penguins there, they are suitably impressed, and one of the researchers even gives her a colorful glove. As the others go back to their normal lives, Edna stands atop an iceberg, wearing the orange glove like a hat, wondering "What else could there be?" This gentle tribute to dreamers crackles with quiet humor, and the art's limited palette both parallels the plot and lends the book a classic feel. Portis's ability to convey emotion and character through the slightest change in Edna's beady eyes and flippers is extraordinary, and the interplay of the text and pictures nears perfection. A delightful story, delightfully told.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

Edna the penguin knows three colors the black of night, the white in snow and ice, and the blue of the ocean that goes on forever. She knows there must be more, so Edna sets off on a quest to find it. She discovers a camp of Antarctic scientists that is a vision of bright orange (tents, plane, parkas, and so on). The story closes with Edna wearing a large glove left by the scientists as a headpiece and wondering, What else could there be? The double-page spread shows a small green boat approaching in the distance. Beautifully designed pages are filled with bold geometric shapes depicting the Antarctic landscapes and the few inhabitants. Uncluttered, stylized illustrations featuring a palate limited to the colors mentioned in the story perfectly catch the droll humor of the simple text. This is sure to provoke many chuckles. Pair with one of the many other titles about penguins, such as Jean-Luc Fromental's 365 Penguins (2006).--Enos, Randall Copyright 2008 Booklist

  Horn Book Review

(Preschool, Primary) All the other penguins are happy playing and fishing (lunch is a top priority), but visionary Edna feels that "there must be something else" in life besides the three colors of her world: white ice, black night, and blue sea. She sets off in search of that something and finds it in the bright orange of a scientific expedition's tents, clothing, and airplane ("WOW!"). Edna leads an expedition of her own, bringing the other penguins to see her discovery and share in her amazement. When the scientists leave, they bestow an orange rubber glove on the penguins, who cherish it as something that's "not white...not black...not blue...and definitely not lunch." Our last view of Edna is a double-page spread on which she stands on black-outlined white ice gazing out to blue sea, orange glove worn as a coxcomb-like hat, wondering, "What else could there be?" -- as a green ship just breaches page's edge. Portis's simple story gains much from an effective book design and clever illustration. Pages saturated with color reinforce the theme, emphasizing the monochromatic until orange arrives on the scene. The open layout allows for much engaging penguin activity (not to mention visual jokes -- Edna is always looking in the wrong direction when harbingers of change appear). Portis's optimistic message of the promise the world offers will resonate with youngsters on the cusp of their own life discoveries. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Kirkus Review

Icy Antarctica is frustratingly monochromatic for Edna the penguin, so she forsakes playing (and occasionally even lunch) to scan the horizon for something else. What does she see as she gazes out at the relentless ice and snow? "White, thinks Edna. Like yesterday." At night it's, "Black. Like tomorrow" and the ocean is just, "Blue, blue, blue. Forever." Life's tricolor monotony lifts when she accidentally crashes into a safety-orange "something else"a large tent set up in a scientists' camp. "WOW!" she cries, and, endearingly, proceeds to hug what she can of it. Snow falls on spare, artfully composed landscapes in rough dabs of paint, and the adorable penguins in thickly textured lines resemble earplugs with feet. Young readers may gleefully gloat when they spot things Edna doesn't see at firsta bright orange plane flies by when her back is turned, and a green ship slips undetected into a double-page spread. The deliberately clashing endpapers, solid orange and green, extend the theme in this sweet story of yearning. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p>Edna the penguin only knows the three colors that surround her: white ice, black night, and blue sea. She is convinced there is something more out there. So she sets out on a quest--a quest for color. When she finally finds what she's been looking for, it's everything she hoped for and more. But that doesn't mean she will ever stop looking.</p>
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