Children like to think that they are the only people who can have secrets that are fun and interesting. They never imagine that their grownups might have "cool" secrets of their own, because grownups and the word "cool" simply do not go together. This picture book shows to great effect that there are times when grownups can be pretty interesting people, and it is not wise to underestimate them. Oh, and you will also get to meet a rather clever penguin in this story, which I am sure will delight readers who have a soft spot for penguins.
Illustrated by David Small
For ages 6 to 8
Penguin, 2012, 978-0-8037-3413-5
Elliot is a not your average kind of boy. He wears a neat suit black suit, a white shirt, and a black bow tie. He does not enjoy the usual pursuits popular with children, so when he father suggest going to the Family Fun Day at the aquarium, Elliott agrees to go more out of politeness than anything else.
At the aquarium, Elliot eschews the exhibits that attract all the other children, and instead he wonders off on his own. Which is when he finds the penguins. He loves the way the Magellan penguins look with their “tidy black feather tuxedos” and their “proper posture,” so he goes to where his father is sitting and asks if he can have a penguin. His father gives Elliott a twenty-dollar bill, and then Elliot goes to the penguin enclosure and picks out the smallest penguin. Eliott’s father thinks that his son is going to buy a toy penguin in the gift shop, and it never occurs to him that Elliott has a real penguin in his backpack when they leave the aquarium.
Taking care of an animal that is used to cold temperatures, ice, and lots of water is not an easy thing to do when you live in a house. Especially when you are not too keen to let your father know that there is a penguin in residence. Elliott and his penguin, Magellan, manage very well for a while, and then the unthinkable happens.
Children will laugh out loud when they see how Elliott acquires his unusual pet, and when they then see what he does to take care of it. They will love the extremely surprising ending, and will enjoy going back through the book to find the clues that suggest that Elliott’s father might have a secret of his own.
With a beautifully written and minimal text, and David Small’s wonderfully expressive illustrations, this is a picture book that readers of all ages will enjoy reading. Anyone who has a fondness for penguins must add this title to their penguin book library.