Children’s-literature buffs and staunch fans of the Berenstains (The Big Honey Hunt, 1962, etc.) will be thrilled that the second manuscript ever produced by the famed pair—shelved due to the enormous success of the Berenstain Bears characters introduced in their first book—is finally seeing the light of day.
When an eager penguin unexpectedly receives a blank journal in the mail, he begins to wish for adventures to record in it, only to be disappointed when (he thinks) they don’t pan out. Readers glean from the illustrations that the penguin’s wishes are, in fact, coming true even though he remains oblivious, demonstrating a tunnel vision worthy of Mr. Magoo. He imagines, for instance, that he spies a giant eye staring at him and quickly concludes that it is not an eye at all, but a piece of rock or a snail. The pictures reveal that the eye really does belong to a whale that swallows the penguin and sends him barreling out of his spout, all with the penguin none the wiser. After a series of such misadventures, the penguin makes his first journal entry: “NOTHING HAPPENED HERE TODAY.” The counterpoint between text and illustrated subtext is amusing, but the rhymed verse demonstrates a tin ear: "Not bad! Not bad! / It is the best yet. / How much more dangerous / can you get?"
Sadly, while the concept is clever, the unwieldy, often awkward verse ensures that this effort will place a distant second to the many tales featuring those Bears. (Picture book. 4-8)