Title: When Grandad was a Penguin
Written and Illustrated by Morag Hood
Published in 2017 by Two Hoots, an imprint of Pan Macmillan
RRP: $24.99 (Sourced for this review from my Public Library)

I came across this absolute gem of a book when I borrowed a heap of picture books about penguins from my local library. After a quick advanced search on the online catalogue and several reservation requests later, how lucky was I to find When Grandad was a Penguin in the reservations ready for me to collect!

An unnamed girl thinks her Grandfather is acting a little strange. He talks a lot about fishing and his clothes do not fit. He spends a lot of time in the bathroom, and she finds him in many different places. When the zoo rings the mix up is revealed, and the girl returns to the zoo. On her way out, however, things do not go as planned.

What a fun book this is. With the visual text adding much more to the verbal, in both explanation and humour, this is the perfect read aloud for a young audience. The illustrations, created from ink and lino printing, are gorgeous. The audience is placed in a position to know more than the narrator, making them co-creators of the story.
The use of picturebook codes and positioning of the narrator are strong literary points in this picturebook. Line, colour, shape, direction and framing are all well used. The cool colours of a cool climate emanate the environment of a penguin, and the repeated use of the oval as a frame, echoing the shape of a penguin’s white front, effectively reinforces the penguin theme. Direction, on several occasions, encourages the reader to turn the page and keep reading. Line has been used to emphasise depth in the illustrations and also direction and speed. The narrator’s voice, that of a girl visiting her Grandad, is the verbal text, with the visuals adding much more to the story. Viewers will know there has been a mix up before the zoo calls, and the last page, with no verbal text, ensures the narrative is open ended.

This metafictional picturebook, with its nontraditional use of characters and the narrator positioning the viewer to construct the narrative as the story develops with the help of gaps between the visual and verbal texts, will ensure young audiences will have much fun.

When Grandad was a Penguin will join other popular favourites celebrating the special love between a grandfather and grandchild. What a favourite this will be for years to come.

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