A hippo with her own sense of style shows her 1-year-older, uptight, mouse best friend that it’s important to be true to yourself.
Penelope is over the moon to be starting school, but her best friend, Tiny, seems more reticent about his first day back: “Oh, Penelope, you have so much to learn.” And he’s not talking about academics. Penelope’s sparkle rainbow outfit will cause everyone to stare, and what will they think of her picnic lunch and her Hugsy Hippo for show and tell? Tiny helps her pick out the perfect outfit, lunch and item for show and tell—all of them boring, ordinary and plain in Penelope’s eyes. But you can’t keep a happy hippo down, and in the morning, Penelope dons her sparkle rainbow outfit and packs her picnic lunch and Hugsy Hippo anyway. Tiny is uncomfortable with the other kids’ stares at the bus stop, reluctant to sit with Penelope on the bus and worried that his friend will have a bad day. But when they meet up again in the lunchroom, he realizes that his fears were unfounded. Penelope not only has a great day, she makes the day better for all the kids around her, Tiny included. Plourde’s dialogue includes lots of give-and-take between Penelope and Tiny, encouraging children to join in, and Cornelison’s illustrations positively revel in Penelope’s outré glee.
Penelope joins the ranks of some other popular nonconformists, including Ian Falconer’s Olivia, David Shannon’s Camilla Cream and Victoria Jamieson’s Bea. (Picture book. 4-8)