A young Renaissance penguin triumphs after much trial and considerable error.
Rutland crafts an incoherent tale featuring a beaked inventor who puts part of his flock in peril with one experimental device, then gets them out of it with another. Trapped on a small iceberg that’s been split from the home glacier in some unclear way by his new flying machine and is rapidly shrinking as ice chunks are bitten off by a menacing orca, Chilly hastens to construct from apparently limitless quantities of iron “sea junk” a series of baroque escape vehicles. After his riveted “Polar Roller” sinks like a stone and a side-wheeled submarine likewise fails (“My pulleys didn’t pulley. My engine didn’t engine,” he comments opaquely), he pauses for some kelp casserole made by the “ladies who chick-sit me” before ultimately (after many pages) succeeding. The splashy watercolor-style illustrations alternate between jumbled brown leaves of rough diagrams and Antarctic scenes of the bespectacled Chilly, ruminating over each reversal and ignoring the sallies of nemesis Vinnie (“Hey, pull my flipper”) in the background. The tale’s non sequiturs and coy sight gags and references will likely play better with readers than its supposed theme—which, according to the author’s awkwardly phrased afterword, reflects the life of the historical Leonardo in focusing more on process than rewards and in thinking outside the box.
A salute to the spirit of invention that reads more like a first draft than a finished product. (Picture book. 6-8)