The grumps are particularly vexing when you are a little penguin and you don’t even know where they came from.
In this accomplished debut picture book, Messer introduces readers to Penguin, who is standing in the rain in his sou’wester. But the rain is not the cause of his “very bad mood.” The problem? “He didn’t know why and he didn’t care. He stomped his feet all the way home.” He removes grumpy boots and coat. Still grumpy. He removes grumpy socks and overalls. “Nope. Still grumpy.” Off come the grumpy underpants. “I’m still grumpy, you know.” So he takes a deep breath and plunges into the tub. He plays with his duck and makes a bubble beard. He slips into his favorite PJs, downs a cup of hot chocolate, grabs a favorite book and a favorite teddy, and climbs into bed. Messer has arrived at a fine combination here: few words and images, but not too few, and well-chosen to pave the way out of the grumps. The artwork possesses substance and delicacy, using linoleum prints in a simple red, yellow, and blue palette displayed for maximum contrast against spacious white backgrounds. Unexpectedly—for kids that is—sleep looks good, and there is that comforting, invisible presence off the page, drawing the bath, making the hot chocolate, and washing the grumps out of those clothes.
Really well turned, with balance, momentum, and all the right notes. (Picture book. 3-6)