Penguin written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Polly Dunbar's Tilly and Friends series of books by  made it onto my list of Best Picture Books of 2009.  She is also the author and illustrator of some wonderful stand alone titles like Dog Blue, Shoe Baby, Flyaway Katie and Penguin.

At that time, her adorable book Dog Blue had just come out in paperback.  Now, I am happy to report that her latest book, Penguin, is also now available in paperback!  In Dog Blue, a little boy who loves the color blue and dearly wants a dog imagines a blue dog.  When the real thing comes along (and is not blue) Bertie has to alter his way of thinking, but just a little bit, to make room for this new dog.  In Penguin, Ben is given a gift, a penguin who will not play the way Ben wants him to.  Ben does everything he can to get Penguin to talk to him, including funny faces, dizzy dances and a trip to the moon on a rocket, but Penguin is not talking.  Frustrated, Ben conjures up a big blue lion and tries to feed Penguin to him.  The lion wants nothing to do with Penguin, but when Ben throws a final tantrum the lion eats Ben for being too noisy.  For this, Penguin bites the lion on the nose, hard. When the lion says, "Ow," Ben pops out!  The final line of the book is, "and Penguin said . . . everything!"

The illustration for the page in which Penguin says everything is superb!  There is a huge word bubble and it is filled with the images of everything that has passed between Ben and Penguin in a style of illustration slightly different from the rest of the book - more childish and with a bit of collage.  As I read this book out loud to my son (and tried to understand it with my adult brain) I decided to sit back, read and observe his reactions.  I realized that this book is ALL about imagination and how kid's see the world, which, despite being a parent three times over, I am largely out of touch with.  For a few minutes, I felt like I was back in a world where I could imagine anything, and I got a glimpse of how my son sees his world - and for that I am grateful! 

There is a fabulous interview with Polly Dunbar over at the always amazing blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, from which I learned that she and her best friend from college, Katherine Morton, have a puppet company called Long Nose Puppets.  Together, the two have turned some of Polly's books, including Shoe Baby and Penguin, into plays!  Sadly, Shoe Baby is not in print here anymore, but maybe the excellent publisher Candlewick, who has printed Dog Blue and Penguin, will re-issue it... Below are a few fun pictures from Shoe Baby, the book and show!



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