Review of Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters!

Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters!
by Marikka Tamura; illus. by Daniel Rieley
Preschool    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
1/18    978-1-101-99696-6    $16.99

The book begins with a snapshot of penguin paradise: “Penguins on ice. / Penguins in the sea. Penguins love the sea!” But wait: “WHAT is this?” A ship has spilled its oil in the ocean. The cold, sticky stuff clings to the penguins’ feathers and impedes their movement; if they can’t swim, they can’t fish. “Penguins can’t live in this!” Meaning well are the offstage “Big Boots” who propose outfitting the birds with sweaters; and around the world, do-gooders start knitting. The be-sweatered penguins look adorable and become famous; in Rieley’s crisp-lined, ice-cool-colored mixed-media art, they resemble a dorky barrel-chested, fashion-coordinated singing group. So what’s the problem? In an author’s note, Tamura says that her book was inspired by a news item she read about the worldwide effort to knit sweaters for the “oil-soaked little blue penguins” of Phillip Island, Australia. After researching the matter, she learned that sweaters are almost as bad for penguins as spilled oil: the fibers trap chemical vapors against the birds’ skin. Furthermore, penguins don’t enjoy being wrestled into knitwear. Tamura hints at her larger, worthy point in the last pages of this gentlest of cautionary tales: when there’s a problem, beware the easy fix, even when the fix is unbelievably cute.

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Nell Beram
Nell Beram is coauthor of the young adult biography Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies (Amulet/Abrams), which made the 2014 Amelia Bloomer Project list and YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.

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