June 28, 2018


Pignic. By Matt Phelan. Greenwillow/HarperCollins. $17.99.

Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime! By Cate Berry. Pictures by Charles Santoso. Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. $17.99.

     Wonderful watercolor illustrations are the biggest immediate attraction of Matt Phelan’s Pignic, a sweet and simple story of a seven-pig family heading outdoors for a sweet and simple summertime ritual – complete with picnic basket and kite. On closer inspection, though, there is more to Pignic, which gently calls up the sorts of stories and circumstances that very young readers and pre-readers will likely already know about pigs. At the story’s start, for instance, all the pigs are sauntering across a meadow toward a suitable picnic place, but on the far left – in a strongly contrasting blue color – there is a wolf. Uh-oh! And then, when the pigs reach a suitable spot, complete with a tree to climb, one piglet simply can’t get up into even the lowest branch. Uh-oh again! But things work out quickly and happily here. A very large passing tortoise kindly allows the small piglet to stand on top of his shell, giving him enough of a boost so he can reach the lowest tree branch. And what about the wolf? He seems to be sneaking up on two piglets who are about to fly a kite, but what actually happens is that there is no wind to get the kite airborne, so one little pig gestures from the wolf to the kite, clearly asking for some help, and sure enough, the wolf gives a big huff and a big puff and the kite soars into the air: “Hooray!” In fact, any and all adversity on this lovely day turns out to be only temporary: just as the pig parents lay out all the “p” foods they have brought – pretzels, pies, pickles and plums – dark clouds suddenly appear and there is a huge downpour. Uh-oh! Well, actually not uh-oh, since these are, after all, pigs, and pigs like nothing more than to wallow in mud, of which there is now an abundance. So the pig family members are all smiles as they slosh and splash around, eventually ending up completely covered in muck and heading home to the words, “What a perfect day for a pignic.” Yes, perfect indeed.

     One piglet is already asleep on the papa pig’s shoulders as the pigs of Pignic approach their house, but sleep is the farthest thing from the mind and interest of Penguin and Tiny Shrimp in Cate Berry’s Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime! These two characters are not going to go to bed: “We don’t do bedtime!” says Tiny Shrimp very directly. The two friends spend some time explaining what will not be in the book: no toothbrushing, no bath time, no soft beds, no squishy pillows, no sheep to count, no stars on which to wish. So what is in the book? Glad you asked! “This book has fireworks!” yells Penguin, as bright colors explode all around. “And running through the Serengeti!” he says, as a lion chases Penguin, one of the sheep, and Tiny Shrimp (who is wearing four sneakers). And there is much more, such as “sailing in shark-infested waters,” which seems to alarm even the lion, who has joined the no-bedtime parade. There are songs here, the characters explain, and silly jokes, and even “a Uni-Hippo,” which is, yes, a hippopotamus sporting a single unicorn horn right in the middle of its skull. “One thing this book will never do is make you tired,” exclaims Penguin, by this time surrounded by lots of animals and characters from the various scenes, including an octopus, guitar-playing dog, smiling star, accordion-wielding cat, and of course the Uni-Hippo. “This book will never make you yawn,” continues Penguin, stifling a, um, yawn – while Tiny Shrimp finds himself yawning also. In fact, suddenly all the characters are yawning, even the star. And despite Penguin’s flat-out statement that “my eyelids aren’t heavy at all,” one eye is soon half-closed, and most of the other characters are flopping down together in a big heap of sleepiness – and then dozing off. And at that point, Penguin and Tiny Shrimp climb into bed and are immediately fast asleep as well, leaving the very tired Uni-Hippo to have the last word: “This book will see you in the morning.” A bedtime book with a difference, and a very amusing one both in the writing and in Charles Santoso’s delightfully daffy illustrations, this tale of Penguin and Tiny Shrimp is a neat way to reflect young readers’ own determination not to go to sleep until their bodies simply give out and they have no choice but to “do bedtime.”

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