Penguin Pandemonium - Christmas Crackers (Awesome Animals) by Jeanne Willis

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Penguin Pandemonium - Christmas Crackers (Awesome Animals) by Jeanne Willis

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A jolly enough breeze through a wintry holiday for some of the Zoo penguins.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 9780007521944

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Penguins do not celebrate Christmas we learn from this book, so when Santa's Grotto turns up next door to the Zoo's penguin enclosure one particularly snowy Christmas, all that can occur is jealousy. Some of the many penguins are just too determined to enter into the spirit of, er, receiving things. And you can guess just how well that will go down in the moral universe of a primary school book…

Having read a few previous Jeanne Willis books and found them quite old-fashioned and quaint, I was surprised to meet her creations of skate-boarding hipster penguins, complete with their staircase jumps (whatever they are) and pogo-sticks. The Awesome Animals franchise is being covered by many authors, and while Ms Willis has had the penguins exclusively to herself, it is a weird franchise. Adam Blade was never just one author, and I won't mention other famous names who don't write all the material under their own name, so it's weird to have this unusual collective of half a dozen talents together, all probably nudged to produce a yuletide tale – this being an example.

The first problem however I flagged up in my opening paragraph – some of the many penguins… There clearly are far too many of them, of far too many types, and certainly tuning into the series at this fourth juncture you have no clue to their character, and slap me down and diagnose senility there are just too many of them to get a handle on whatsoever. It's only until some of them get too greedy and go AWOL and the adventure proper starts that any character is to be formed. It was always going to be lacking with the writing so dialogue-heavy and description-light, as befits something targeted at under-tens. But there is a sense this is more of an average description of a cartoon film than a novel. I did wonder indeed if there weren't too many penguins for even the most artistic animator to distinguish.

That adventure is nice enough, however, with more than ample helpings of unlikely and a dollop of the absurd. Luckily it dovetails the penguins into a more human kind of Christmastime day very successfully and gives them enough human weirdness to react to, and enough trouble for them to get in. So while this book is an episode of Saturday morning TV rather than a full-on Happy Feet style animation, it still serves a purpose of entertainment, without being at all too moralistic regarding the holiday season.

With all the 2013 Xmas books yet to reach the Bookbag, we turn back to last year and the likes of Christmas According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney as worth a look for the same age range.

Buy Penguin Pandemonium - Christmas Crackers (Awesome Animals) by Jeanne Willis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Penguin Pandemonium - Christmas Crackers (Awesome Animals) by Jeanne Willis at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Penguin Pandemonium - Christmas Crackers (Awesome Animals) by Jeanne Willis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Penguin Pandemonium - Christmas Crackers (Awesome Animals) by Jeanne Willis at Amazon.com.


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