Aspiring adventurer Mr. Penguin solves his first mystery with the help of an earnest crew in this quirky, sharply illustrated chapter book.
When Mr. Penguin receives a frantic phone call from Bouddica Bones, owner of the Museum of Extraordinary Objects, the clumsy, bow tie–clad novice adventurer ejects himself from his office trash bin and dashes to the museum with his companion spider, Colin. The mission is standard expedition fare: find treasure that’s been buried in the museum in order to save the dilapidated institution. From this early moment, Smith crafts a Rube Goldberg–style plot, with chapters dangling readers over the next twist in the magical, cavernous museum basement. Bouddica and her brother, Montague, are described comically and drawn as white, and the only character of color, Edith, lives “in the park” with a pigeon named Gordon. While Edith is instrumental in saving the day and is rewarded by Bouddica, Mr. Penguin and Colin are the ones who receive formal praise in the city newspaper, reinforcing dominant race, gender, and class norms. Also irritating is the fact that Antarctica-native Mr. Penguin lives in an igloo. A plot twist and strategic pops of orange among detailed drawings are sure to pull readers along, as chapters are broken up by images and color.
For fans of the author’s Claude series who are looking for a longer chapter book. (Mystery. 8-12)