Monday, July 28, 2008

Penguin by Polly Dunbar


. Dunbar, Polly. Candlewick Press, 2007
Ladybug has mixed feelings about Penguin.  Snugglebug however has a definite opinion of the same book.  He didn't care for it.  The text and illustrations seemed to be over 5-month old Snugglebug's head.  Neither captured his attention.  The story is about a boy who is given a Penguin.  He tries a variety of ways to get the Penguin to engage him in conversation.  Since nothing is successful, he resorts to teasing and cajoling Penguin.  This, too, does not work.  In the end, he tries to feed Penguin to a lion, but ends up being eaten himself.  Penguin saves the boy's life, thus ending the language barrier. 
The difficulties lie in the latter half of the book.  Ladybug does not approve of teasing or cajoling for any reason, especially a language barrier.  That said, Ladybug feels this book is on the level of a 4 or 5-year old.  It would be a great book to open the conversation about cultural differences and ways to bridge the gap.  And in Ladybug's opinion, it is never too early to learn to bridge the gap.

Becky's thoughts: I had mixed feelings on Penguin as well. The teasing and being-eaten-or-almost-eaten-by-a-lion just didn't sit right with me. The "message" of the book is that there are many ways to communicate, many ways to say I love you. And my mother even entertained the idea for a moment or two that the Penguin was able to love unconditionally or sacrificially. It was able to "turn the other cheek" if you will. I couldn't quite embrace the notion of the Penguin-as-Christian-symbol.

The narrator just wasn't likable. In that it reminded me of Princess Justina Albertina by Ellen Dee Davidson (another book about bullying). In that case, our narrator didn't almost get eaten, she really and truly did get eaten. As did Pierre in Pierre by Maurice Sendak if I remember correctly. (Though it's been at least twenty years since I've read it, so it could have been a close call. I don't think that one had anything to do with bullying though.) And then there is Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau which also left me a bit cold. Talk about harsh consequences for bullying! My point, within the scheme of things, books about bullying and teasing, it has its place.
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