Penguin Days by Sara Leach, illustrated by Rebecca Bender. Pajama Press, 9781772780536, 2018.
Rating 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 5
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? This is a “must have” for any library! This story focuses on a young girl name Lauren and her role in her aunt’s wedding. Her family takes a two-day trip to North Dakota so Lauren can be a flower girl in the wedding. The reader learns early on that Lauren’s “brain works differently than other people’s brains” because of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The reader slowly starts to see how this manifests itself — like the fact that they are driving instead of flying in an airplane because of a previous flight of constant screaming. We slowly understand Lauren’s condition as she processes through the next few days. She arrives at her aunt’s farm, meets her cousins, tries on her flower girl dress, meets some cows, and finally gets ready for a big role in the wedding. However, during this time, Lauren exhibits some behaviors typically found in children on the autism spectrum such as disliking loud sounds, feeling hot and cold at the same time, rocking back and forth, not liking changes or sharing, and not understanding expressions such as a child being “priceless”. We see Lauren handle these challenges through breathing exercises and special tricks she has learned to calm down. Lauren also mentions things that her special helper teacher has taught her: to look at people in the eye and shake their hand when first introduced. As you can imagine, this behavior is a little confusing to her young cousins and soon she is teased or even ignored when her behavior is a little too strange for them to understand. However, they all come to her rescue on the wedding day when Lauren is completely terrified to walk down the aisle. After some coaching from the adults, the cousins explain to Lauren her vital role in being a flower girl — Auntie Jess does not know the way down the aisle and needs to flowers as a guide. The day ends well with all the cousins having a grand time after the wedding.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Nothing
To whom would you recommend this book? I think this is am important book for just about any child; however, if a child is around another child with Autism Spectrum Disorder they would definitely benefit from reading this book. It really explains how these children are feeling and how they process all the events around them. This book is geared for the early elementary level.
Who should buy it? Public and elementary school libraries.
Where would you shelve it? Juvenile fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” pile? Yes
Reviewer: Kristin Guay, Centerville Library, Centerville, MA
Date of Review: December 5, 2018