A bird that has wings but cannot fly is a curious thing, and little Penguin Blue can’t help wondering what flying would feel like. And what an adventure his maiden flight – with the aid of a kite – turns out to be.
The arrival of a brand new kite is the catalyst for Penguin Blue to embark on a voyage of discovery. But he’s not quite prepared for a sudden gust of wind that sweeps him off his feet and ‘up, up, away!’
An airborne penguin is such an unusual sight that he soon attracts the attention of his penguin pals, Jeff and Flo, who try to help him down – but instead get caught up too. Next it’s Wilbur the seal’s turn to get tangled with the kite, then Clive the polar bear and his dinghy, creating a hilarious chain of events as each one joins the fray – a bit like the succession of characters who get stuck to the golden goose.
There’s plenty of visual comedy as the menagerie of animals fly precariously through the sky before toppling into a colourful land that’s very different to their usual snowy white habitat: the jungle!
Suddenly, a riot of colour explodes on the page with exotic flowers and tree trunks depicted in colourful stripes worthy of a Paul Smith scarf. As the newcomers explore their new surroundings, a cheeky new character creeps onto the scene
The novelty of the new soon starts to wear off, and the coterie of animals start missing home. But now there are sharks ominously swimming around the island, how can they ever return?
Cue some quick thinking by our penguin protagonist and a touch of Blue Peter patch-and-stick, and – Ta dah! – the dingy, some leaves and a piece of vine is transformed into a makeshift flying machine to get them home again. And there’s a secret stowaway on board.
This is a wonderfully accomplished and polished debut picture book, and well worthy of its accolades and plaudits. The pictures are playful and witty, while the rhyming text trips along at a merry pace, but it’s the animal characters – each and every one created with a mix of charm and cheekiness – that steal the show.
The world of picture-book is pretty well populated with penguins, but there’s always room for one more, especially one like Penguin Blue who stands out from the monochrome crowd with wit and originality.
And the moral of the tale? As Frank Sinatra says: It’s very nice to go travelling, but it’s oh-so-nice to come home.
Note: We’ll put the presence of penguins and polars bears together down to artistic licence. Penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, principally the Antarctic, while polar bears live in the Arctic (the northern Hemisphere), so the chances of a penguin happening upon a wild polar bear are zero. But then again, a penguin taking a whimsical flight with a kite is quite a rarity, too.
Fun fact Why can’t penguins fly? Their body isn’t designed to fly; its wings are too short and stubby, but they make excellent flippers. In fact, a penguin’s physique is highly suitable for its native environment, where being able to swim and catch fish is more useful than flying.
Did you know? The Emperor Penguin is the tallest of all penguin species, reaching as tall as 120 cm (47 in) in height. They’re a friendly bunch too, often huddling together (or maybe it’s to keep warm in freezing temperatures). Little Blue Penguins are the smallest, averaging around teensy 33 cm (13 in) in height.
Author notes By day, Rob Biddulph is the award-winning art director of the Observer Magazine. By night, he makes up silly stories for his three daughters and draws pictures to go with them. He prefers to paint penguins, pirates and pachycephalosauruses but occasionally he’ll attempt something that begins with a letter other than ‘p’. He lives and works in London and Blown Away is his first book.