Blown Away

illus. by Rob Biddulph. 40p. HarperCollins. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062367242. LC 2014022227.
PreS-Gr 2—When Penguin Blue's new kite catches a strong wind, he calls to friends Jeff and Flo for help, but soon all three are aloft. Wilbur the seal and, perplexingly, a polar bear named Clive attempt to reel in the penguins only to find themselves swept away with the others. Crash-landing in the jungle, they find that the novelty of a new environment momentarily distracts them from the uncomfortable heat, but it's not long before these polar animals are piling into Clive's inflatable raft, rigging up some leaves and vines as a sail, and, with a whoosh of air from an obliging elephant, sailing back to their icy home. Biddulph's digital illustrations use clean lines and generous white space to establish an icy setting in shades of blue that contrasts nicely with the greens and yellows of the busy jungle spreads. Plenty of fun background moments, including a whale school bus and a monkey stowaway, will keep young audiences engaged, and the droll, expressionless characters add an additional element of humor. A few continuity issues mar the otherwise excellent art—kite strings and washing lines end abruptly, and there is no indication of how Wilbur gets from the ice to the sky. The text struggles with a rhythm that often feels forced and rhymes, such as fear and idea, that don't quite work. Some readers may also wonder what a polar bear and penguins are doing in the same hemisphere. Overall, the appealing illustrations but weak text make this an additional purchase for larger libraries.—Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Sacramento Public Library, CA
Penguin Blue tries to fly a kite; it flies him instead. All the animals who try to help end up airborne as well, and they land on a lush island. Ingenuity and the help of new friends whooossh the accidental travelers back to "solid ice." Jaunty rhyming text propels the lighthearted story forward; digital illustrations present the situation and characters with deadpan humor.
When a red kite arrives in his mailbox one windy Antarctic day, Penguin Blue tries to fly it; it flies him instead. He asks for help, but all the animals who try to bring him back to earth end up airborne as well, and eventually Penguin Blue, three penguin pals, a seal and his clothesline, and a polar bear in a rubber raft are blown over miles of ocean. They land on a tiny, green, lush island: an amusingly rendered vertical chunk of fantasy rainforest hosting such species as elephant, zebra, peacock, giraffe, tiger, baboon, and gorilla. Penguin Blue thinks it's lovely, but too hot. Plus, "Jeff misses Mom. Clive wants to go. / Oh, dear. They can't. They're trapped. Oh, no." How to get home? A little ingenuity and the help of new friends whooossh the accidental travelers back to "solid ice." Sharp-eyed viewers will note a stowaway amongst the group, and a last, wordless spread promises further adventures for that little monkey. The jaunty rhyming text propels the goofy, lighthearted story forward. Digital illustrations (saturated colors on a background that mimics canvas) present the situation and characters with deadpan humor and contain details that will please both child listeners and adult readers: a crocodile manning an ice-cream truck; an ocean buoy that says, "You are leaving the Antarctic. Please swim carefully." martha v. parravano

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