Follow a determined girl named Julia as she tries to join in the fun of a mischevious group of dancing penguins. Set in The Romping Tromping Park and Zoo, author/illustrator Kristi Valiant creates a vibrant, funny, and spirited picture book that will leave young readers shaking their very own tail feathers.
Julia devises a plan to dance with penguins at the zoo. Sharp-eyed Julia is perched high up in a tree watching a human dance troupe perform when she notices penguins stealing away with a boa, hats and fans. She follows them back to Penguin Cove, but all she sees are immobile black-and-white forms. Still curious, she brings out her binoculars and watches from a Ferris wheel as they jitterbug, hip-hop and boogie-woogie. Donning a top hat, she runs in to join them, but they are as still as "penguin Popsicles." Still determined, she designs a perfect penguin costume and enlists Hippo as her partner. The penguins stand motionless. At long last, Julia achieves success when she teaches the penguins how to cha-cha. Now it is "[t]ap, flap, cha-cha-cha," all around the ice. Valiant has crafted a fast-paced and entertaining tale of zoo shenanigans. Her watercolor paintings are fluid, swirling about the page with dance-floor fluidity. She plays with perspective and page design to present an eye-catching array of dance moves and colorful attire that could grace any ballroom floor or penguin habitat. Fans of penguins and fans of dance and movement alike will enjoy this humorous romp.(Picture book, 3-7)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—In this sweet zoo fantasy, Julia notices that the penguins are pilfering props from a stage show. When she spies on them from afar, she sees that the birds are dancing in their cove. The zookeeper doesn't believe her, and the penguins won't dance when she is near, so she goes undercover by dressing herself as one of them and finding a partner in Hippo-to no avail. Disappointed, Julia goes home but returns the next day to demonstrate a different dance, and with a "Tap, flap, cha-cha-cha," the penguins simply can't resist joining in. The illustrations are full of gentle colors, loose gestural lines, and broad curves that convey a sense of whimsy and draw readers into a soft-focus world where reality is just slightly different. With the exception of the hippo, the penguins and other animals are not overly anthropomorphized, which adds humorous incongruity to the story and further blurs the line between reality and fantasy. The image of the zookeeper checking on the penguins, seeing Julia in her obvious disguise, and concluding that all is well is an absurd delight that channels the logic that young children apply as they learn to differentiate between what is possible and impossible. A great one-on-one read that will surely generate delightful discussions between adults and children, this one is guaranteed to dance off the shelves.—Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, White Bear Lake, MN
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