A lone penguin fishing attracts a crowd of polar inhabitants.
A penguin, sternly focused, stands with a fishing pole and line extended into the water next to a hole in the ice. An arctic hare approaches and asks, “Are you fishing?” setting the story’s droll tone. Each page turn brings in more animals (and eventually a black-haired, pale-skinned human in a fur-lined parka—an Arctic Native, perhaps?) who crowd around and ask what the penguin is doing and then ponder over the mystery of why the fish aren’t biting. Author/illustrator Gourounas conflates the Arctic and Antarctic in his representations, mixing stylized renditions of what appear to be inhabitants of the Arctic (Arctic Native, hare, musk ox, caribou or moose, polar bear, walrus, seal) with an inhabitant of the Antarctic (penguin), and the equation of a human to animals may strike many as in poor taste at best. That aside, the minimalist illustrations, in a limited palette of blue, white, and shades of brown, cleverly build from nearly empty pages to, by story’s end, a jumble of characters, whose expressions of surprise, confusion, and puzzlement are hilarious and remarkably effective given the illustrations’ visual simplicity. The surprise ending doesn’t immediately nestle in with the rest of the story, since a few questions are left unanswered, but this may spur readers to work out their own explanations—a potentially satisfying and imaginative venture.
This quirky narrative leads to a surprising (although not immediately obvious) denouement. (Picture book. 3-6)