Sunday 29 January 2012

The Truth About Penguins

The Truth About Penguins by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Mark Jackson (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921720772
Reviewed By Anastasia Gonis

In this superbly detailed, finely illustrated book, the reader learns the truth about penguins. But not before that truth is passed from mouth to beak fully garnished with gross exaggeration, to form a continuum of nonsensical information.

A hand-painted banner announces that the penguins are coming. We look upon a double-paged, fully illustrated bird’s-eye view of the zoo in intricate detail. There are monkey cages, hanging bats, owls, a lake with alligator and hippopotamus co-existing; meerkats, a panda enclosure, and lots of birds and other animals in cages and enclosures.

‘What’s a penguin?’ the squirrel asks after reading the banner. The giraffe thinks he knows but can’t exactly describe it. The meerkats that are standing nearby listen in. Various birds give their opinion. Then one-by-one, each animal gives their description about the life of penguins. Each pretends to be well informed and tries to surpass the other in knowledge. This is done to impress the listening animals that are gathering and growing in numbers.

As each animal speaks, we see what the squirrel visualizes. It’s hilarious! The illustrations give life to the text and the words meld with the pictures.

The passing on of nonsense to the poor ignorant squirrel gets out of hand until the zookeeper puts a STOP! to it. He starts to set the record straight and we learn the truth about penguins. He slowly repairs the damage the misinformation has done to penguins. The reader is now in the real penguin world. The illustrations again are so in sync with the text, depicting the life of penguins that words and illustrations seem to become one.

A gloriously entertaining and informative book. The text is hand-written in black ink. It is superbly illustrated with a repetition of shades of ochre, mustard and yellow through the pictures giving it a delightful feel of continuity. Earthy colours bring the animals to life as well.

The covers are an equal delight. The front depicts the animals in gloss against a cream matt background. The back cover shows glossy swinging monkeys and meerkats against a blue matt background. The fly covers are full of motion with dancing penguins on the bottom and swimming penguins on the top. An attractive border of blue, interspersed with red dots, and swings of green below stand against a mustard background. There are illustrations also on the publication page.

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