Sometimes you are searching your library catalog for books for a winter-themed storytime, and you come across the perfect book not only for storytime, but also for your next GLLI book review! The Penguin Who Was Cold is an absolutely charming picture book about a penguin who does not fit the mold. Written and illustrated by Italian-born Philip Giordano, this French picture book is a delightful story about the power of acceptance.
Milo is a penguin, and one morning he realizes he is cold! But his parents are penguins, and they aren’t cold. Neither are all the other penguins. In fact, every morning they all dive off the edge of the pack ice into the freezing cold ocean in search of fish to eat. The cold doesn’t seem to bother them at all!
One day Milo refuses to jump into the sea. The very thought of it makes him unbearably cold. All of a sudden he hears a voice asking him what is the matter. Milo doesn’t know where the voice is coming from, but he explains that he is cold. And there from the bubbling sea rises an enormous whale! The whale tells Milo that they are about to do some traveling, and invites the young penguin to accompany them to a place he might like.
So Milo jumps onto the whale’s back, and off they go, traveling for many days and nights. The pair finally arrive at an island inhabited by all sorts of colorful birds of every shape and size. The birds graciously welcome Milo, and a large white parrot invites him to see the view from the tallest tree on the island that evening.
Hearing Milo speak of his home of ice and snow gives the parrot an idea. Before Milo and the whale set off again on their return voyage, the parrot gives Milo a long colorful scarf made of feathers from each of the island’s birds. Milo goes “pink with pleasure,” and wears it proudly as his new friends see him off.
The new scarf does the trick for Milo as he arrives once again at the pack ice. He is no longer cold. Every day the penguins continue to dive off the edge of the pack ice into the icy sea. One day another penguin refuses to jump. But he sees Milo in his long colorful scarf, and realizes that he is not alone. He is not the only penguin who is cold.
As I’ve already mentioned, The Penguin Who Was Cold is delightful and charming. It deftly presents the power of acceptance; when we extend acceptance and friendship to folks just as they are, they then may be able to do the same for others. The geometric and eye catching illustrations are a major part of the book’s appeal. Penguins are depicted with rectangles for bodies and circles for heads; elsewhere, semicircles, ovals, and triangles round out the book’s characters and landscapes. Swirls of dark hair on his circular head make Milo stand out from the other monochromatic penguins.
Translated from French by Elisabeth Sebaoun (link in French), the text’s rich vocabulary and repetition make it ideal for reading aloud. I did read this book in that winter-themed storytime I mentioned above, and it was a hit with both children and adults. Children with a further interest in penguins can find all sorts of interesting information in the backmatter, added to the book by Tra Publishing. It could be used in a classroom unit about animal habitats, for example, or in a unit dedicated to birds. It would also fit in a social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. The Penguin Who Was Cold is indeed a fortuitous library catalog find, and I am glad to have met Milo.
Title: The Penguin Who Was Cold
Written and illustrated by Philip Giordano
Translated from French by Elisabeth Sebaoun
Tra Publishing, 2022
Awards (for Italian edition): Andersen Prize for Best Book 0-6 years, 2017 (website in Italian)
You can purchase this book here.*
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Klem-Marí Cajigas has been with Nashville Public Library since 2012, after more than a decade of academic training in Religious Studies and Ministry. As the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life!, Nashville Public Library’s award-winning early literacy outreach program, she delivers family literacy workshops to a diverse range of local communities. In recognition of her work, she was named a 2021 Library Journal “Mover and Shaker.” Born in Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí is bilingual, bicultural, and proudly Boricua.