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Friday, December 23, 2016

Penguin Problems, written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith. Random House, 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"It snowed some more
last night, and I don't
even like the snow. It's
too bright out here.
I'm hungry.
       I'd like a fish.
         Where are all the fish?!

Can we all admit to one friend who has great difficulty finding the good in a day? It's worthy of a short conversation, isn't it? Do you find that those are the people you rarely see, or would prefer not to spend much time with? I think so.

So, you might feel the same about the grumpy protagonist in this first collaboration from two exemplary artists. Jory John's dry humor is brought to clever life in Lane Smith's pensive and perpetually bleak penguin. Nothing makes him happy, as evidenced by his demeanor from start of day till dark night sets in once more.

It's early when he gets up ... and cold ... and there's too much noise! The snow that fell overnight makes the sunshine too bright. The fish are submerged, the ocean is salty, diving underwater spawns constant pursuit as dinner for those who live below the surface. All those things we likely find endearing, he finds annoying - he waddles when he walks, he's flightless, and he has no defining characteristics to make him stand out from the crowd. Poor, poor guy!

When a walrus stops to spout rhetoric about the glories of the penguin's surroundings and how truly lucky he is to be living his life, the penguin is taken aback, and then thoughtful. Will it provoke a change?

Loved it from start to finish! Cannot wait to share it, and then share it again. Don't miss it!

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