Pick up a penguin!

posted in: Helen Hancocks | 14

penguininperilfrontcoverPenguin in Peril by début author/illustrator Helen Hancocks is a terrific tale of feline banditry as a trio of tom cats kidnap a penguin from the local zoo.

Their plan – to teach the penguin to fish for them so they need never go hungry again – falters when the penguin escapes their clutches and manages to hide from the cats. Just how does a penguin camouflage itself when surrounded by crowds and traffic in a big city? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but this detail in Hancocks’ story is well observed and wryly funny. Whilst there are plenty of fish in the sea (or indeed, penguins to be found in picture books), this particular tail tale, illustrated using a sophisticated, earthy palette, and with a slightly retro vibe reminiscent at times of Kevin Waldron’s Mr Peek, is definitely worth catching.


In response to Penguin in Peril the girls decided they wanted to make some penguins. We did this by blowing up black balloons and then making them stand up – easily done by slotting the balloon knot into a slit in cardboard feet.


Once upright, the girls used acrylic paint on the balloons to give them tummies, eyes and beaks.


A simple but effective activity, which I’ve used very well in large groups at school: kids really LOVE using balloon pumps themselves, and instead of paint we glued on white felt for tummies, googly eyes, and orange cardboard beaks (so that the penguins could be taken home without having to wait for any paint to dry).

Whilst making our penguins we listened to:

  • Perpetuum Mobile by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra
  • The Fairy Penguin Strut by The Wayfarers
  • Fish Sticks by Recess Monkey

  • Other activities which would work well alongside reading Penguin in Peril include:

  • Making penguins out of water bottles, with this tutorial from TeacherTime123.
  • Preparing penguins for supper (out of eggs, olives and carrots!). There are also these cute edible penguins, which surely have to be worth a go!)
  • Creating penguin puppets you can take for a walk: Use our balloon idea above but transfer it to round paper lampshades attached to long bamboo sticks. (For another penguin themed lampshade, take a look at this!)

  • There are a lot of great penguin books out there: Do take a look at the other penguin themed books we’ve enjoyed in the past including 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet, Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon, Ping and Pong are best Friends (Mostly) by Tim Hopgood and Penguin by Polly Dunbar. What other penguin themed books do you have a particular fondness for?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. I was under no obligation to review the book and received no payment for this post.

    14 Responses

    1. Lupe

      Thank you so much! The penguin is my classroom mascot and these would be perfect for us to celebrate the last few days of Kindergarten!!!

      • Zoe

        Hi Lupe, that’s so great to hear – I’ve done this twice in school with groups of 30 5 and 6 year olds, and they’ve loved it – seriously, the balloon pumping is such a hit (make sure you have several available), and at the end of the session the kids are delighted to be able to take home such a “big” item.

        Oh yes, Catherine, Cuddly Duddley is fun, and Mrs Brown Lost and Found has to be included in any penguin list, you’re absolutely right!

    2. Mrs Brown

      Balloon penguins – genius. Wish I’d had this post on Tues when it felt like December was upon us! We’ll be taking you up on this idea and Penguin in Peril too. It looks like just the sort of caper that E would love. As for other penguin books, Lost and Found is currently top of our reading list.
      Mrs Brown recently posted..6 books for the bank holiday weekend

    3. Zoe

      Hi Bamauthor,

      Farfetched? But that goes for SO many picture books. I think the humour in this would win you round – do hope you’ll find a copy to see for yourself 🙂
      Zoe recently posted..Pick up a penguin!

    4. Stephanie

      Love the penguins! Genius idea, so stealing! Vague memories of a story about a penguin who wished he could fly that my son loved but can’t for the life of me remember the name of it.
      Stephanie recently posted..Circus Girl

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