CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 26 . . . . March 12, 2010
Penguin has itchy feet. Not the kind that needs scratching, but the kind that comes from being bored and feeling cold at the South Pole. Pirate, on the other hand, has itchy skin. The kind of itchy skin that comes from too much adventure and being exposed to too much heat. Understandably, both are very grumpy.
Penguin eventually sets him/herself adrift on an ice floe in search of adventure and heat while the grumpy-itchy pirate hides out in the belly of his ship in an effort to get some peace and cool relief from the sun.
Eventually penguin bumps into the pirate's ship (the ship is wandering aimlessly because the grumpy-itchy captain is below deck), and penguin climbs aboard and is discovered by the crew. Of course, the grumpy-itchy captain makes penguin walk the plank for trespassing on his ship. However when penguin asks the pirate captain for a final wish, her/his request leads to some side-splitting giggles and a solution to both their problems.
The Pirate and the Penguin is, in essence, a very silly book. It is a story that will tickle children's funny bones and leave them with the message that it is worthwhile to persist in one's search to find one's niche in life. In this case, the story line loosely follows that found in The Prince and the Pauper. Characters in this story also covet each other's very different lifestyles, and eventually obtain the opportunity to switch contexts.
Storms is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator who has illustrated at least four children's books prior to The Pirate and the Penguin. The Pirate and the Penguin is the first children's book that she has both authored and illustrated. The full-page images in The Pirate and the Penguin contain cartoon characters that are quite lovable and full of emotion and motion. Children will have no difficulty identifying the plot through the character's facial expressions, body gestures and actions. Similarly, the characters are large on the page, making them easy to see in larger group sessions.
Storms' liberal and playful use of maps, labels, and "environmental print" provides many examples of information and comic book conventions that could used to expand a child's own writing and drawing strategies. For example, children can be encouraged to use the book's endpapers to imagine, create, and label maps of "really boring" places. Similarly, children can use the map in the middle of the book to visually sequence the penguin's and pirate's trips after they meet.
Due to Storms' creative use of a wide variety of actions, sounds and exclamations throughout the story, The Pirate and the Penguin is a prime candidate for a nine-person Reader's Theatre script. It would not take much to have a class taking on the roles of the penguin and his/her three penguin friends and the captain and his four crewmates. Mayhem and laughter would ensue as children tried to dramatize "penguin Yoga", the art of scratching their hot itchy pirate bodies, sailing and searching aimlessly for gold, quacking like a penguin and growling like a pirate!
Although the book does raise some smiles, the somewhat weak plot reduces the overall success of the book. For example, younger readers may have some difficulty following the convoluted plot whereas older readers may wonder why the pirate put on the penguin's sweater since he seemed to be suffering from the heat already.
Keith McPherson has been a primary and elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984 and is currently a lecturer for the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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