Patricia Storms is no stranger to penguins. The Toronto author and illustrator had success with her 2009 book, The Pirate and the Penguin, which featured a squat version of the flightless bird as foil to the titular swashbuckler. Her new book dispenses with the human character, and substitutes less roly-poly birds to relay the story’s themes of reassurance and unconditional parental love while encouraging young children to develop a sense of independence.
The text is written in the voice of the androgynous parent penguin, assuring its offspring that it will never let the youngster go, “except when …” The exceptions become more complex as the story progresses, beginning with basic bodily needs (“except when … you have to go to the bathroom”) and gradually moving on to reflect the child’s growth: drawing a picture or chasing the stars, the drama of a temper tantrum, and finally the need to go off and play independently with friends.
Wry humour imbues both text and art, ably displaying the parent’s unremitting connection to the child alongside its recognition that the youngster must be allowed room to grow. The penguins, big and little, are rendered in pleasant shades of violet and plum rather than stark black and white, and Storms utilizes a limited but vivid palette and an array of textures to create the lively South Polar landscape of ice, blue skies, and ocean the little penguin joyfully begins to explore.