How many library books do you think you’ve read with your kids in the last year? I’ve always imagined that we’re big users of our local library, but then I came across Reading My Library – Carrie is aiming to read every single one of the children’s picture books in her local library in the next 12-24 months! Now that to me sounds like a great challenge and an exciting adventure, and as I’m always on the look-out for new ways to find great kids’ books I thought I’d (admittedly rather loosely) incorporate her approach into our own library visits.
So working through the shelves J pulled down Penguin by Polly Dunbar, who we’d come across previously when we read (and enjoyed) Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy. Penguin won the Booktrust Early Years Awards in pre-school category and the silver award in the Nestle Children’s Book Prize for children under five years old in the year it was first published (2007) so all the signs pointed towards us taking this book home and having fun reading it. And that is exactly what we did.
Ben ripped open his present.
Inside was a penguin.
“Hello, Penguin!” said Ben.
“What shall we play?” said Ben.
Penguin said nothing.
Ben tries everything to get his lovely new stuffed toy friend to talk to him – he tickles his penguin, he sings a silly song, he stands on his head. But all to no avail. Ben becomes a little frustrated and pokes fun at Penguin but this also fails to provoke a response. More drastic action is required.
When even firing penguin into outer space doesn’t work, Ben gives up and tries to feed his present to a passing lion. However, the lion doesn’t play ball; he refuses to eat the penguin. Poor Ben is exasperated and finally yells furiously at the penguin and then… something truly terrible happens!
Quite what occurs is best left to enjoy when you read this book, but suffice it to say that this calamitous event finally spurs the penguin into action, catastrophe is averted, and in his own way, Penguin finally does what Ben has wanted all along and all’s well that ends well.
This story, with its twist initially reminiscent of something out of Hilaire Belloc’s cautionary tales, is simply and beautifully told by Polly Dunbar. What I love is that it perfectly captures that childhood belief that your soft toys are “real”, balancing rational fact (as adults we know that these are, after all, inanimate objects) with youthful hope and optimism, the latter being richly rewarded. The illustrations are uncluttered and simple (like the text); the interaction between the characters becomes the focus with virtually no background or visual setting to give away their location. The large expanses of white page surrounding the characters instead ensure the sparse use of colour is particularly effective. So all in all, in this household we all agree that Penguin is most definitely a worthy award winner, and a must-read for families with young children.
Inspired by the eponymous penguin, we set to making our own penguin colony. Here’s how we did it:
1. We gathered:
2. We mixed up some black paint with PVA glue and then used the potato to make black blobs all over the sheet of card.
3. Before the black glue/paint mix dried we stuck the white roundish paper on to the black potato prints to create the penguins’ tummies.
4. Again, before the glue had time to dry we added eyes to each of the penguins….
5. …. and then beaks
6. To complete the penguins we draw some feet and flippers (M insisted on being anatomically incorrect – “MY penguins have *long* legs”).
We used pencils rather than pens because when the pencil tips got a bit of paint/glue on them it was easier to wipe off than if we had used felt tips.
7. The penguin landscape was covered in snowy cotton wool, stuck down with some more PVA glue.
Admittedly I prepared the tummies and beaks in advance, but even so, this was still a quick and easy craft with instant results. Originally I had wanted to use potatoes to print all parts of the penguins, but I realised that the girls would get very bored waiting for the paint to dry before printing the next part of the penguin (which would have been necessary for the paint not to mix and turn everything black). I think individual penguins could work well as christmas cards, especially if you added a couple of silver stars or a bit of glitter. Alternatively you could use brown paint and red tummies and make robins.
Whilst making the penguins we’ve been listening to Happy Feet’s soundtrack and the totally raucous but and fun Antarctica by The Dreadnoughts. Other penguin inspired activities we’ve noted for future crafty sessions include:
Finally, we’d love to hear what books, songs and crafts about penguins you and your kids love…so over to you now!