Up and Down
(HarperCollins Children’s Books)
The boy and the penguin from Lost and Found return in this brand new adventure. The two are still the best of friends and love doing everything together. But there is something that Penguin feels he needs to learn by himself. He wants to learn to fly. As readers, young and old, will know, this is not in the penguin’s disposition, and is turning out to be rather a challenge. The boy desperately tries to help, to no avail, but the penguin is adamant he wants to do this solo. And so as all else fails, the boy and the penguin go their separate ways, and the penguin eagerly signs up to be a live cannonball at a travelling circus. But they both miss each other and eventually realise they cannot manage without each other. Will the boy manage to stop the penguin from boarding his flight?
It is with ecstatic joy that we welcomed back these two characters in this new picture book by Oliver Jeffers, an author/illustrator much loved in the Library Mice family.
This story brings, again, a real whirlwind of emotions. My daughter was particularly sensitive to it, and broke into sobs when this particular illustration came into view:
She just could not bear the thought of the poor penguin alone, separated from his friend. Jeffers’ artwork obviously “talks” to her. And I can see why. I cannot fail to shed a tear every time I read (or watch) Lost and Found, and The Heart and the Bottle. I think it is because Jeffers digs out emotions that we often fear (rejection, loneliness, disappointment, bereavement, etc) and his way of portraying these emotions enhance the effect they have on the reader. His illustration style may be sparse, but he is a master at expressing a lot, succinctly, through his artwork. This very illustration captures the feeling of sadness at being totally alone so convincingly that it was, literally, too much to bear for my daughter. At the end she told me “I like his books but why do they have to be so sad in the middle?”. Making my daughter cry, although not particularly pleasant for her, just proves what an amazing and utterly unique author/illustrator Jeffers is. Five year-olds have little emotional maturity and the fact that she responded in such a way (and similarly to The Heart and the Bottle) proves how well he can connect to his audience.
But the message of the book is not one of sadness and loneliness; rather it is a celebration of friendship, and of pursuing your dreams.
This is simply another beautiful picture book from a truly special artist. Why oh why has the man not won the Greenaway Medal yet?!?
Sent for review by the publisher