In this playful cautionary tale, a boy asks Santa for-and receives-a gift that proves more than he can handle. On Christmas morning, Joe tiptoes downstairs to find just what he wanted under the tree: a real-live penguin named Osbert. But after several very frigid days out in the snow, lots of cold-water baths and meals of creamed herring with his new penguin pal, Joe wonders if he's made a wise choice. A follow-up letter to Santa gets a response with some thinly veiled advice in the form of two free passes to the grand opening of Antarctic World at the local zoo. Though the predictable ending wraps things up tidily, youngsters will still find much to enjoy in this lighthearted fantasy with realistic holiday roots (and the refrain will likely produce chuckles: "But I had asked for Osbert, and now I had him"). Lewis's (Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I? Please!?) blend of watercolor, pastel and some digital rendering creates an appropriately dreamy-looking backdrop for Joe's adventure. A cool blue-white palette is often tempered with the glow and shadow generated by inviting indoor lighting. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Since Santa has misunderstood his requests in the past, our young narrator has been very specific in detailing his desire this year for a real penguin from Antarctica, including a description and even his name, Osbert. To his delight, Osbert is there on Christmas morning. At first, playing with him outside, even taking a cold bath together, is fun. But then, when difficulties arise, our hero has his doubts about his choice of gift. Fortunately, Santa has sent passes to the Penguin Palace at the zoo, where it is clear that Osbert will surely be happy. Our lonely but wiser narrator is already planning for next Christmas. Lewis's hero is a real charmer as he cavorts with his friend and then has his doubts. He uses watercolors and digital rendering but mainly textured pastels to create scenes, from vignettes to more than full page, displaying the antics of the pair. When it is obvious that Osbert will not fit in his life, the happy discovery of the right place for him is tempered by the emotional farewell. The tones of winter fill most of the pages; the snowy end-papers chill. 2004, Candlewick Press, Ages 4 to 8.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
PreS-Gr 2-After several years in which his Christmas wishes have gone awry, Joe gets smart and writes Santa a detailed and exact description of the present he wants-a real live penguin. He gets what he asked for, but providing his new friend with meals of creamed herring and taking cold baths with him turn out to be more than he bargained for. Written with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, this quietly quirky tale is accompanied by expressive watercolor-and-pastel illustrations depicting the determined-to-make-this-work Joe and his irrepressible pet. This holiday story will make kids laugh all year long.-E. M. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Thanks to an unseen but unusually obliging Santa, this cautionary tale of a lad discovering the hazards of even carefully phrased wishes reaches a happy resolution. On Christmas morning, Joe finds just what he asked for under the tree: a live, 12-inch-tall penguin. He only thinks that he's ready to care for such a companion, however; after a very long romp in the snow, a cold shared bath, a breakfast of creamed herring, and a lot of cleaning up, he's penning another polite letter to Santa, allowing as how some other gift would be okay, too. Next morning, he has a new sweater and two tickets to the zoo's Antarctic World, which turns out to be penguin heaven. In Lewis's digitally reworked watercolors, muted winter grays and blues unite with fuzzy-edged forms to create a chilly-looking but intimate visual tone, and Osbert's winning, puppy-like personality comes through clearly. Salutary reading for all children campaigning for a pet. (Picture book. 7-9)