Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Penguin Cha Cha by Kristi Valiant

Penguin Cha Cha by Kristi Valiant

Rating: 5 stars

Julia loves the zoo. She watches the daily performances from a tree branch--she has a good vantage point from which she can spot some black fins grabbing random items from performers on the stage. These black fins belong to a group of penguins that are obviously up to something.

Julia wants to know what they're up to.

She follows them back to their penguin cove, but they just stand around acting and looking like "penguin popsicles"--they aren't doing anything when they know she's around.

This is what Julia sees through her binoculars.
So she does what any kid would do: she spies on them. She goes up high and, with some good binoculars, she spots those penguins DANCING! With the stolen props from the performance, they dance around the cove like nobody's watching. Julia wants to not just watch, she wants to join in! But every time she tries, she gets the same: penguin popsicles.

So she does what any kid would do: she dresses up like them. Her costume is hilarious and spot-on, and she waddles in with her pillow-as-white-tummy doing its best to disguise her human-ness. It doesn't work. The penguins still stand around like big popsicles.

So she does what any kid would do: she puts on her fanciest outfit and aims to dazzle them with her cha cha. She juts out her chin and puts back her shoulders and reaches out her arms and cha cha chas with such enthusiasm and joy and grace that the penguins can't resist joining her. Finally, she gets what she wants: she gets to dance with the penguins!

The penguins can't resist: Tap, flap, cha cha cha!
My kids and I are blown away by this book. It is sweet, it is funny, it is cool. Valiant's illustrations are drop-dead gorgeous. I want to sit and study every single illustration because there are so many great details, so much joy sketched in young Julia's face and arms and movements!

But my kids and I also want to know: will there be another story, similar to this one, about monkeys doing magic in their monkey house?  We hope so, because we've enjoyed Penguin Cha Cha so much...we want more!

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