Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book #5: Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Image from
How do you make a penguin even more adorable? Try a bright Hawaiian shirt and a bow-tie. It seems to work for Tacky!

Tacky is a penguin that just doesn’t seem to fit in with his friends, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect. His friends like to dive gracefully into the arctic waters. Tacky does cannonballs while wearing an inner tube. Tacky’s friends try to ignore his odd habits until the day a group of furry hunters happen upon the penguins. Although his friends run away, Tacky boldly faces down the hunters. In fact, the hunters are so flabbergasted by this odd penguin that they can’t seem to do anything but watch. The other penguins pick up on Tacky trick and jump out of hiding to sing Tacky’s favorite song, “How Many Toes Does a Fish Have?” The hunters flee in terror and Tacky is a hero.

This is another book my mom used to read to my brother and me over and over when we were young. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized my mom might be related to Tacky. They both seem to have an affinity for Hawaiian shirts and marching to the beat of their own drummers. I guess I’m attracted to books with distinctive heroes/heroines who are comfortable being themselves (see my post about The Little Little Girl with the Big Voice). It’s good to let kids know that it’s ok to stand out of the crowd sometimes. Let’s celebrate the benefits of our differences, rather than ignoring them.

Tacky is a great story to bring some silly to a penguin storytime. You can only take so many black and white penguins; it’s nice to bring some color and life to the land of ice and snow. It can fit nicely into an arctic storytime because the illustrations feature icebergs, glaciers, etc. It’s also a wonderful book for a storytime that spans a larger age range. You can entertain younger kids by being silly, while the older kids will be able to follow the story.

Image from the I Heart Crafty Things blog
This book has great opportunities to get kids up and moving. First, have the kids march “1-2-3-4” like Goodly, Lovely, et al. Then have them march like Tacky “1-2-3, 4-2, 3-6-0, 2 ½, 0.” Once they get the idea, you can call out different numbers to see what they come up with or switch between the two different kinds of marching. I also love singing “How Many Toes Does a Fish Have?” and sometimes it’s necessary to sing it a couple of times through so that the kids can sing it too. The louder and sillier the better.

There are dozens of fingerplays, rhymes, and songs about penguins. Tacky was originally published in 1990, so just googling “Tacky the Penguin Story Time” will turn up a plethora of ideas for crafts and other activities. My favorites included I Heart Crafty Things penguins in Hawaiian shirts and the super simple penguin puppets from The Best Kids Book Site.
Image from

Tacky is also the star of at least 6 other Tacky books. I personally love Three Cheers for Tacky and  Tackylocks and the Three Bears (which is great for a fractured fairytale storytime). No matter what he’s doing or where he’s at Tacky never stops being “an odd bird, but a very nice bird to have around.”


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