A boy and an adventurous penguin connect onboard a ship in this picture book about finding family.
Beginning by creating some animal folklore—South African penguin parents whisper their chick’s secret name, and those who know it are considered family—the story offers an avian hero who wants to find out about the large, gray whales that carry humans. Of course, these are actually boats, and when the brave penguin finally follows one and slips inside, he becomes trapped, only to be saved by James, a kind, white cabin boy. Kennedy’s (Go Go Doggo, 2017, etc.) huge-eyed humans are a startling contrast to her more realistic penguins, and the boy appears far too young to be working aboard a ship—even one his parents oversee. James sneaks food and supplies to the penguin, but when the First Mate discovers the theft, he’s ready to throw the stowaway overboard. Although the conclusion takes a while to reach, James’ parents come to the rescue, and readers will likely wonder why they hired such a mean First Mate. In this lighthearted series opener, James inevitably learns the penguin’s true name. But Aunt B’s (Go Go Doggo, 2017, etc.) tale may unfortunately make children think of penguins as suitable pets.
The colorful illustrations and conversational prose should please readers but the thin plot may leave them with questions.