Book review: The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream, by Sam Hay, illustrated by Marek Jagucki

Hay, Sam. The Spy who Loved Ice Cream. (Spy Penguins, book 2.) Illustrated by Marek Jagucki. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250188588. 225 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Penguins, spies, ice cream and a mom who was an award-winning store detective set the stage for an adventure. Jackson, otherwise known as Secret Agent 00Zero and his friend, Quigley go on a quest to figure out why his uncle is committing crimes. Will Jackson be able to solve the mystery before his uncle is arrested? Black and white illustrations enhance the text. Easy read, just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader wondering what will happen and be able to predict a few things that will happen. This is book 2 in the Spy Penguins series, but it can stand alone.

Verdict: This easy read will entertain and keep the reader captivated. I like the emphasis of believing in his uncle and working together to prove his innocence. This is a fun, lighthearted adventure that will keep the reader engaged.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Penguin Flies Home, by Lita Judge

Judge, Lita. Penguin Flies Home. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17. 99. ISBN 9781534414419. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Penguin attends flight school, but he misses his friends from the South Pole. His flight teacher, Flamingo, hatches a plan for a field trip back to the South Pole. Penguin is excited and once he returns, he enthusiastically wants to teach his friends how to fly. When his penguin friends would rather swim than fly, Penguin realizes not everyone wants to fly. He wonders if his friends will still like him if they don’t share the same dream. When Penguin tells his friends he is heading back to flight school, they have a surprise for him. Colorful illustrations show Penguin’s feelings during his adventure. The end pages show pictures of his new friends from the flight school year book and Penguin’s scrapbook of his penguin friends. Aerial view of the penguins in the formation of a heart shows the support of his friends. Although this is a companion book to Flight School, written in 2014, it can stand alone. Judge’s book, Flight School, was adapted into an off-Broadway musical and is currently running in New York and China.

Verdict: A heartwarming story of support and encouragement, modeling for children how they can follow their dreams, make new friends and maintain former friendships. Readers will be inspired by the message to follow their heart, even if it means they are different from others. I recommend this book for elementary school age libraries and public libraries.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Blue Penguin, by Petr Horáček

Horáček, Petr. Blue Penguin. Candlewick Press, 2016. Unpaged. 15.99. ISBN 9780763692513. Ages 3-6. P7Q7

A single blue penguin is born into a flock of black and white penguins and becomes isolated in his differences.  As the blue penguin sings his songs of loneliness and dreams of a white whale, another penguin listens, learns the songs and becomes a friend.  Other penguins, too, being to listen, which changes the songs from those of loneliness to songs of friendship.  When a huge, white whale responds to the first song, and comes to take the blue penguin away, the other penguins ask him to stay.

Mixed media illustrations use spashes of color in the snowy Antarctic to carry the blue penguin’s sense of isolation and then his growing inclusion in the penguin community.

Verdict: I recommend this story of friendship and community for preschool, elementary, and public library collections.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Penguin Problems, from Jory John and Lane Smith

John, Jory. Penguin Problems. Illustrated by Lane Smith. Random House, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 9780553513370. Ages 3-7. P8Q9

john-penguin-problemsIn Penguin Problems, we meet a penguin with problems. Our anti-hero has a gift for focusing on all the negative things in his life—which is everything. He doesn’t like snow, the sun’s too bright, the ocean is too salty, and he waddles too much. The little penguin goes about his day comically addressing all the challenges he faces, until he meets a wise walrus who instructs him to seek out the beauty surrounding him. Will the penguin heed the walrus’s advice, or ignore him and sink ever lower into his constant disappointment? The penguin and his antarctic surroundings are portrayed in a furry, almost pointillist style by illustrator Lane Smith. Generous negative space and exaggerated features add to the humor of the story. Penguin Problems successfully highlights the significance of perspective in daily life. As proclaimed by the walrus, who is very lost or has travelled from the North Pole just to deliver his message, a positive perspective is often a matter of choice.

November 2016 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups, by Tadgh Bentley

Bentley, Tadgh. Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups. Balzer + Bray, 2015. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233536-4. Unp. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Bentley Little Penguin HiccupsThe end papers are funny as they have the penguin eating chili and tacos and invite the reader to keep going. The words of the story are large when they are trying to make a point about not giving chili to a penguin it will give them hiccups. He tries all of the tricks of getting rid of hiccups like standing on his head, drinking backward from a cup etc. The story gets the reader involved by asking them to scare the penguin to help him. This would be a fun book for a group read aloud but it might not be very quiet. The funny thing is he celebrates that his hiccups are gone with a nice spicy taco – and it all starts over again.

December 2015 review by Melinda Dye.

Book review: Tacky and the Haunted Igloo, by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Lester, Helen. Tacky and the Haunted Igloo. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. Unp. $16.99. ISBN 9780544339941. Ages 4-1st grade. P8 Q7

Lester Tacky Haunted IglooTacky and the Haunted Igloo is the latest addition to the Tacky the Penguin series by Helen Lester and illustrator Lynn Munsinger. It’s Halloween in Nice Icy Land and Tacky still refuses to follow the crowd. Each penguin acknowledges his or her greatest fear and embodies that fear as a Halloween costume. Of course, after eating most of the treats, Tacky falls asleep; but, does he wake up in time to save his waddle from an old menace? The unusual vernacular and onomatopoeia found in the text make it fun to read aloud. Munsinger uses familiar sketchy watercolors to illustrate Tacky’s spooky spectacle. Fans of The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, another unlikely champion with an affinity for treats, will enjoy this new tale of a bumbling penguin with a Halloween twist.


October 2015 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Bob and Flo, by Rebecca Ashdown

Ashdown, Rebecca. Bob and Flo. (Penguin friends at preschool! series.) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-44430-0. 20 pgs. Ages 2-4. P9/Q9

Ashdown Bob and FloThis is a little story of two penguins at preschool.  Flo’s pink lunch bucket goes missing only to turn up when Bob uses it to make a sandcastle, and finally both Flo and Bob use the bucket for water so they can “Whoosh” down slide while they are playing at preschool.  Bob reminds Flo to make sure she brings her bucket so they can have some great fun at preschool.  The pictures are very simple and cute which make this a great story for small children.

October 2015 review by Melinda Dye.

[Editor’s note: Though Bob takes Flo’s bucket without asking her, there seem to be no consequences for his actions.  How do you reconcile the “sharing” versus taking or stealing?]