Flora and the Penguin

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Flora and the Penguin Book Poster Image
Girl gets a skating partner in wintry wordless whirl.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Illustrations do a great job of showing what ice skating looks like. Kids also learn that underneath what looks like solid ice, there could be fish and penguins swimming. 

Positive Messages

It's fun to find a new friend to play with. When you hurt your friend's feelings, you can find a way to cheer your friend up. You can solve problems by working together. Don't let a temporary dispute ruin your playtime. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Flora is upbeat, creative, sporty, self-entertained, open to making a new friend, and sensitive to others' feelings. The penguin is friendly, cooperative, kind and generous, and quick to stop sulking and work together to get back on track with having fun. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Flora and the Penguin is the follow-up to Molly Idle's Caldecott Honor Book Flora and the Flamingo. Like the first book, it's a wordless story that follows young Flora and she teams up with a bird in a graceful duet, but this time it's on skates in a cold, icy landscape. With loads of charm and a range of emotions (happy, angry, worried, sad, suspicious, stubborn, happy again), there's plenty of story to tell out loud or for kids to "read" on their own. It's clearly another winner. 

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What's the story?

Flora goes for a skate on natural outdoor ice, and suddenly a penguin pops out of a watery hole in the ice. She finds the bird a perfect partner for pair skating. They do all their graceful moves in unison until the penguin tries a spin and plunges plunges back through the hole. Soon it pops back up with a fish in its beak for Flora. She accepts it but then tosses it back in the hole, angering the penguin. So Flora removes a skate and uses her pom-pom-tipped shoelace as a fishing line. They work together to catch the fish, patch up their friendship, and return to skating happily together. 

Is it any good?

Like Flora and the Flamingo, the delightful FLORA AND THE PENGUIN says a whole lot without using any words. Author-illustrator Molly Idle show these two just-met friends going through a range of emotions as they play together -- and apart -- on (and under) the ice. Kids will relate to the push-pull fight-and-make-up nature of many playdates. 

This book's pastel blue-and-white palette is as perfect for a winter skating story as previous outing's pastel pink-and-white was for its summer swimming story. And once again, well-placed flaps add dimension to shifting emotions and help drive the narrative. Here' hoping Flora has some more fun in mind for spring and autumn!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about free play and making friends. Have you ever made a new friend on the playground or at a park? 

  • What do you think about wordless picture books? Are they as fun as a story with words? What turning points do you see in the story -- when one of the characters does something that changes the way the story's going?

  • How do you think Flora and the Penguin compares with Flora and the Flamingo? Which do you like better? How are they similar? How are they different? 

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