CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2006
Augustine is a young penguin whose parents have named her after the famous painter Pierre-August Renoir. When her family moves from the South to the North Pole, Augustine faces some difficult adjustments. She must leave behind her cousins and aunts and uncles, her teacher and classmates, and, saddest of all, her grandma and grandpa! After a long plane ride, the penguin family arrives at the North Pole. Augustine is happy to see the snow but too shy to say a word in her new classroom. At recess while the other children play ball, Augustine sits by herself in a corner of the playground with her doll, Picasso.
Noticing it has become very quiet, Augustine looks up to see the smiling faces of her classmates as they gather around to watch her draw. Before long, all the students are painting and drawing with Augustine, getting ready to display their work in an art show the following week. The highlight of the art show is the surprise attendance of Grandma and Grandpa who tell Augustine that the North Pole has brought out her true colors.
Mélanie Watt has written and illustrated several books for children, including Leon the Chameleon and, most recently, Scaredy Squirrel. According to the notes on the dust cover, Augustine's story is based on the author's discovery that, as a much-moved child, her passion for drawing was a wonderful way to "express her feelings and put smiles on people's faces."
There are 14 left hand pages, divided into 9 sections, with each section depicting items from the story done in a child-like style in bright primary colours. In the centre square of each page is a drawing by Augustine which turns out to be a "penguinized" rendition of famous paintings by the likes of van Gogh, Picasso, Muncsh, Monet, Salvador Dali, and among others, Lawren Harris. At the end of the book, the author notes that Augustine would like to thank a list of painters for inspiring her. That list includes the name of each artist and painting that inspired the little penguin's work.
Told in simple, straightforward prose, Augustine is a charming and clever tale addressing themes which resonate with young children. How to deal with feelings of shyness in new situations, as well as the joy of making connections through artistic expression are central to this story. Since many primary classrooms include a study of penguins in their social studies curriculum, teachers will be happy to discover a book featuring these unique creatures in a rather unusual setting.
The lovable little displaced Antarctican will have no trouble finding fans among five to eight year olds. Teachers should find Augustine an appropriate read-aloud to use as a take-off for an art period which might well include an introduction to classic art.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.