My enormous thanks to Jade Callaway for offering me a copy of children’s book Penguin Beach by Lawrence Prestidge in return for an honest review which I am delighted to share today.
Penguin Beach is published by Matador Children’s Books and is available for purchase through the links here.
Clyde loves being a penguin! He’s the star of the show at London Zoo’s Penguin Beach, delighting visitors every day. From the way he waddles, to his tuxedo-like feathers, no one can resist the loveable charms of Clyde the penguin. That is, until Diego, a new penguin from Spain, arrives. Why do the visitors love his back-flips and leaps so much? And why are the other penguins so impressed by him?
Clyde must come up with a plan to drive Diego out and claim the top spot again. This is his beach. This is his spotlight. However, his mischievous plans have gone too far and Diego may be in danger. Clyde and his penguin friends go on a mission to find Diego.
Will they find him, or will the pythons, gorillas and a trio of ‘bad guys’ get in their way?
My Review of Penguin Beach
A new penguin in the zoo might just cause a few problems!
I’m going to begin by mentioning a tiny negative that I want to get out of the way before my review proper. There are a couple of cultural references, such as a mention of Downton Abbey, in Penguin Beach that I think will be lost on its readership as they would be too young to have encountered them. Having said that, we older readers who might be sharing the book with a young person will enjoy them and I certainly found myself sniggering.
Penguin Beach is really fun with a fast paced, dynamic plot that romps along. There’s humour, peril and drama as animals and humans clash and interact. The illustrations are excellent and not only give great visual appeal, but they will help support less confident independent readers, as will the short chapters, because not only do they add to the pace, but they mean a young reader can have the satisfaction of reading a complete section independently. The language is so expertly used by Lawrence Prestidge in Penguin Beach because where more challenging words are used, their context makes them understandable so that children will enjoy a story and learn at the same time.
However, it is the combination of character and theme that makes Penguin Beach such a success. With gender, race and implied sexuality cleverly woven into the narrative, children will recognise, either overtly or subliminally, characters they are aware of in their own lives so that they can explore issues and reach an understanding without even realising they are doing so as they are entertained. The bullying snake Cuddles is dealt with through others supporting one another, the outsider Taddy simply wants to find friends and have someone notice her, the human bully Benjamin is shown to be a completely different person when faced with his mum, Clyde behaves unkindly and badly when he feels his role is being threatened and so on. What Lawrence Prestidge does so well is to exemplify why people (or in this case animals) behave the way they do and to show that it is possible to change and to create friendships even with those who seems to threaten us or who are very different from us. The major theme of family is just lovely too.
I really enjoyed Penguin Beach and whilst Miles’ routine in Primates Got Talent might not be the kind of act I’d like to see to much of (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is…), I can envisage children being absolutely delighted with it. Penguin Beach is enormously entertaining, accessible and the kind of book that even reluctant readers will enjoy.