Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book #354: One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, Illustrated by David Small

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Elliot was a very proper young man always impeccably dressed, formal, and polite. So Elliot wasn’t particularly thrilled when his father suggested they go to Family Fun Day at the aquarium; too many noisy kids! But Elliot was too polite to say that. Instead he said, “Of course. Thank you for inviting me.” At the aquarium Elliot explored while his father sat and read a magazine. That’s how Elliot found the Magellanic penguins. He liked their proper posture and precise black and white markings. So Elliot asked his father if he could have a penguin. His father said yes and handed him a twenty dollar bill while gazing at an advertisement for plush penguins. Elliot found the smallest penguin, named him Magellan, and popped him into his little red backpack. At home Elliot set about making Magellan comfortable, making him anchovy pizzas and running him an ice cold bath for swimming. Elliot tells his father he needs to go to the library to do some research on Magellan. His father thinks that’s a wonderful idea, “When I was in third grade, I got Captain Cook.” Elliot’s father discovers the penguin in the bathtub, but the story ends with a humorous twist as Elliot shoots readers a knowing glance as Captain Cook, Elliot’s father’s Galapagos tortoise, sniffs the water.

The text of this humorous book is split between the amusing narrative and dry, tongue-in-cheek dialogue between Elliot and his seemingly oblivious father. Dialogue is printed in line with the rest of the text, but is cleverly encapsulated in speech bubbles. This ties the text and illustrations together neatly. Small’s hand drawn illustrations that use pen and ink, ink wash, watercolor, and color pencil are based in crisp black and white, with accents of icy blue, vibrant red, and a tortoise-y plaid. Small incorporates many details that foreshadow Elliot’s father’s hilarious revelation at the conclusion of the book. For instance, Elliot’s father wears pajamas with tortoises and can be seen studying maps of the Galapagos. The facial expressions and body language of the characters are superb; they not only serve to play up the humor of the situations, but also bring the reader into the story more fully.

Pull out your favorite penguin picture books and have a penguin themed storytime. My current favorites are Tacky the Penguin, Lost and Found, and Turtle’s Penguin Day.

Bring in photographs of and facts about real Magellanic penguins. Good online resources include the websites for the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Penguin Project, and the Aquarium of the Pacific.

This book will be funnier to kids who have some knowledge of Frederick Magellan and Captain Cook, so this could be a fun snappy wrap up to a unit about explorers. Other picture books about exploring include The Adventures of Polo, the non-fiction So You Want to Be an Explorer?, and the imaginative Crazy Hair.

Buzzeo’s website features some great extras including a reader’s theater script with parts for 7 or more readers, an activity kit with printables, and a curriculum guide.


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