Terri Rose Baynton
ABC Books, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
In a jungle full of jaguars, monkeys and parrots the last thing you expect to find is a penguin. But there she is – Gwendolyn, the only penguin in the entire jungle, and she loves it all – the humidity, the glorious. colourful flowers and all the jungle creatures. . She is such a novelty that she is friends with all the creatures and her positive personality always shines through. When Jaguar complains that it is too hot, she tells him of the ice and snow in Antarctica; when Monkey complains that the bananas are too squishy she tells him there are no trees in Antarctica let alone banana trees; and when Parrot complains that he cannot find a wife despite his magnificent colours she tells him of the black and white colour scheme of Antarctica.
Even though all this wise advice makes her friends feel good, it starts to make Gwendolyn yearn for her natural home, a place she has never been to. And so off she goes on a long, arduous journey eventually arriving exhausted but happy to be there and to meet other penguins and to find her own identity. There is much fun to be had sliding and diving but…
This is a clever story that explores the concepts of being different, being positive and making the most of things written in a context that will appeal to young readers – although their adult helpers might have to be quick off the mark when the child inevitably asks, “How did she get to be in the jungle? ” Her constant encouragement to have her friends look on the bright side could become a refrain for the children when things get a bit tough for them as they ask themselves, “What would Gwendolyn do?” and having sought a solution, move on. Building the foundations of resilience.
Baynton’s illustrations are clear and detailed and there is much to discover in them as the book is shared while her portrayal of Gwendolyn is endearing. Young children might like to follow these instructions to draw Gwendolyn and then use collage or other techniques to place her in either her jungle home or her Antarctic one.