Penguin Flies Home (Lita Judge)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Penguin Flies Home by Lita Judge, a sequel to her adorable Flight School.

Penguin is loving his new life at Flight School. Using the wire-and-feather harness contraption that his new friends gifted him in the first book, he is exploring the world from a brand new perspective as he soars over the clouds. The only thing that makes him sad is that he can’t share this new talent with all the friends he left behind at the South Pole. Seeing that their pupil and pal is homesick, the other birds plan a field trip… to Antarctica! Penguin’s old friends are delighted to see him, and he is equally eager to teach them everything he’s learned about flying. However, the other penguins simply aren’t as interested in achieving flight, and he realizes that his dreams are very different from theirs. He worries that his old friends must think he’s ridiculous for having such un-penguin-like goals, but he will find that when someone loves you, the differences don’t matter as much.

It’s rare that a sequel is even better than its predecessor, but this one absolutely is. Once again, the message is about not putting limits on your dreams, this time focusing on the idea that dreams should not be dictated by one’s background or community. Indeed, Penguin’s own anxieties of what the others will think of him are his hurdle in this book, and it’s an incredibly relatable emotion (a scene in which Penguin gazes at an aurora, contemplating his deep need to fly, is positively moving). The story resolves beautifully, with Penguin’s old and new friends coming together to show that while his dreams may differ from theirs, all they feel for him is love and pride. The art, from the round and cuddly penguins to the gangly flamingo and everyone in between, is delightful. The length is great, and JJ loved it. An uplighting treat, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Flight School (Lita Judge)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is the adorable Flight School by Lita Judge, a wonderful story about a plucky little penguin with a dream: to fly.

When Flight School begins its new semester, the teachers find themselves with a rather unorthodox student: a penguin! They gently inform the little chick that while they would love to teach him, penguins aren’t meant to fly. The little penguin is insistent, however, that he has the soul of an eagle, and that he can and will soar among the clouds. He works hard, studying along with his classmates, despite not being able to keep up with them physically. At last, all the Flight School students are cleared for flight… except for penguin. Dejected, he accepts his limitations and begins to leave – until Flamingo suddenly has an idea that might help the determined little penguin make his dreams a reality.

LOVED this one. It’s a touchingly sweet story about how physical attributes should never deter you from your dreams, and serves as a powerful metaphor for differently-abled people not letting their bodies determine their fate. It also encourages others not to dismiss a person’s dreams based on physicality: Penguin’s teachers are the ones who build him a set of wings from their own feathers, then help him to stay up in the air. It’s a lovely message that encourages us to believe in the dreams of others and help them where we can. The illustrations are absolutely darling, and the length is great. JJ and I both loved this story about a community coming together to make a dream come true, and it’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved.

Penguin Problems (Jory John & Lane Smith)


Hello, everyone! Today’s book is Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith, the story of a rather pessimistic penguin learning to appreciate his blessings.

Penguin problems: this guy has plenty. It’s too cold. The ocean smells too salty. It’s too hard to catch fish and he’s hungry. Everyone looks like him, and he looks like everyone else. It’s all got little Penguin pretty down. A friendly Walrus takes notice, and encourages Penguin to appreciate the things that make him happy, rather than his many frustrations. Will this improve the grumpy little penguin’s mood?

I had some mixed feelings about this one. The art is lovely, managing to take a somewhat barren landscape such as Antarctica and make it feel rich and majestic, and filling it with gorgeously illustrated creatures. Unfortunately, the story is a bit of a slog: Penguin’s whining is incessantly aggravating, and many of his complaints are simple problems that he can he himself resolve but refuses to. Many other complaints are self-deprecating, which makes his sadness a bit more sympathetic, but when the pace stops dead during Walrus’ well-intentioned yet pedantic lecture, it’s hard to know who to root for. If the penguin has real self-esteem issues, “just cheer up” is not the right sentiment. And if Walrus is truly encouraging his optimism, well: Penguin immediately complains about Walrus’s interference, then begrudgingly admits that some things in his life are okay, then goes RIGHT BACK to whining. It’s a frustrating ending that leaves the reader feeling as though there has been no progress. There are some cute jokes and, again, the art is just lovely, but the pacing problems made it tough for a baby bookworm like JJ to get into, and I didn’t much like the overall message. If you’d like to peruse some charming Antarctic art, give this one a go. Otherwise, this might be one to skip. 

Grumpy Pants (Claire Messer)


Hello, everybody! Today, we read Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer, a simple yet fun story about shaking off the blues.

Penguin is grumpy. He doesn’t know why, but it doesn’t matter; he feels just wretched and he just can’t shake it. When he gets home, he takes off his “grumpy” coat and “grumpy” pants, shedding his clothing piece by piece until he can hop in a nice, cold bubble bath with his ducky. Then, after putting on his favorite pajamas, having a nice cup of hot chocolate, and snuggling into bed, he begins to feel better. He knows that sometimes, the best you can do is try to wash the grumpy away, and attempt to start the next day with a better attitude.

What a sweet, lovely book! Everyone has had a day like Penguin’s, and I loved that, instead of simply saying “cheer up!,” the message of the story focused on self-care and resolving to try again tomorrow, which is a great philosophy regarding frustration or disappointment for all ages. I LOVED the block color print-style illustrations, they are colorful, classic, and completely adorable. The length is perfect, and JJ loved the grumpy little penguin’s story. This is a great staple book for any child’s library; the kind that can be read again and again whenever we need a reminder that being grumpy is part of life, and to try not to let it bring us down. Baby Bookworm approved!