Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: David Small
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2012
Genre/Format: Fantasy/Picture Book
GoodReads Summary: On a momentous visit to the aquarium, Elliot discovers his dream pet: a penguin. It's just proper enough for a straight-laced boy like him. And when he asks his father if he may have one (please and thank you), his father says yes. Elliot should have realized that Dad probably thought he meant a stuffed penguin and not a real one . . . Clever illustrations and a wild surprise ending make this sly, silly tale of friendship and wish fulfillment a kid-pleaser from start to finish.
What I Think: The first time I read this book it was actually read to me by David Small himself. After reading the book, he went back and talked about the illustrations and how much thought he put into the illustrations in order for them to truly support the reader throughout the text. He worked hard to give readers clues to how the story will end. The first time through, it's so easy to overlook all the little tidbits in the illustrations, but then when you go back, it's clear as day. I am a huge fan of rereading (now), and this book begs to be reread. It's a perfect opportunity to discuss rereading and how once we know a story, we're able to reread and look at the text in a different way. Point out how an author and, in this case, an illustrator, use foreshadowing. How does the foreshadowing help us as a reader? It is also a chance to point out how our purpose as readers may change when we reread a book.
I love Eliot. On the very first page he stands looking out at the reader with a mischievous smirk on his face...and he's wearing a tuxedo complete with bowtie. How can you not love this kid? The text and the illustrations give readers an understanding of Eliot. He is very proper indeed - you can tell from his actions and his words - but he is also one to do what he wants to do. Reading this book and focusing only on Eliot would be a great lesson in characterization. Students could even use the illustrations as a time to stop and describe what is happening. Small's illustrations do tell a lot about the characters so ask kids to try and describe what the illustrations so expertly are showing us about Eliot. This would be a great way to dive into a discussion on Eliot's decision to take a penguin home. The penguin seems happy enough living with Eliot instead of at the aquarium but Eliot did actually steal a penguin. Is it okay to break the rules?
Finally, this book clearly demonstrates dialogue. There are speech bubbles to indicate when a character is talking. It's obvious when someone is talking versus when the narrator is talking. It's also clear how the characters take turns. It's a perfect opportunity to introduce students to quotation marks and dialogue in a story. Would be interesting to read I Want My Hat Back first and look at that text which is all dialogue and then compare to this book where the author adds in some narration with the dialogue.
Read Together: Grades 2 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 2 - 6
Read With: Larf by Ashley Spires, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Snatch of Text:
"Eliot was a very proper young man.
So on Saturday morning when his father said,
'Family fun day at the aquarium. Shall we go?'
Eliot thought, Kids, masses of noisy kids. But he only said,
'Of course. Thank you for inviting me.'"Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Predicting
Writing Strategies to Practice: Narrative, Dialogue, Characterization, Foreshadowing
Writing Prompts: Imagine you could visit the aquarium or the zoo and bring home a "pet." Choose the animal that reminds you the most of yourself and then write a story about what would happen if you tried to bring home that animal!
Topics Covered: Family, Father-Son Relationships, Animals, Pets, Audacity, Friendship