Picture Book Reviews: Santa Baby & Bye, Penguin!

On review today are some delightful (and perfectly seasonal!) reads, courtesy of friends at Raincoast Books. I will be taking a look at Santa Baby by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, and Bye, Penguin! by Seou Lee. Happy winter reading!

If you have had the pleasure of reading Llama Destroys the World or Llama Unleashes the Apocalypse, then you are already familiar with the fantastically adorable and funny picture book world of Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox. In Santa Baby, readers are introduced to dear old Santa Claus preparing for another round of Christmas. Unfortunately, for Santa, the emphasis these days is on the old. It is understandable that he should feel a bit ancient after being “Santa for hundreds and hundreds of years”. But this year, things just don’t feel right. Santa’s wrinkles are “more wrinkly”, and his belly “less jolly and more…jelly”, and tasks are harder than ever to accomplish. So, in an exhausted state, Santa calls “upon the magic of Christmas” to “make [him] young again”. The magic ends up turning Santa back into a…baby! And when the elves discover this alarming change, there is a wee bit of panic: how are they to carry on with plans for Christmas when Santa can only “ga-ga goo-goo”, eat paper lists, and yell NO! to going down chimneys? In the spirit of keeping the ending under (Christmas) wraps, I will just say that Santa Baby is a wonderful, genuinely funny and altogether heartwarming new Christmas release. A deceptively simple concept, when executed well, makes for terrific picture book material, and with Heather Fox’s adorably merry, can’t-resist illustrations of Santa and his adventures and Jonathan Stutzman’s enchantingly giggly and sweet storytelling, Santa Baby is absolutely perfect holiday fare.

The world of wordless picture books is rich with tremendous authors-illustrators. There are books by Molly Idle, Shaun Tan, Suzy Lee, Aaron Becker, David Wiesner, Matthew Cordell and Guojing, to name just a handful of incredible creators. Now flying into the mix comes author and animator Seou Lee, with her noteworthy picture book debut Bye, Penguin!. With only two words used in its entirety, Bye, Penguin! is a story of emotion, of surprises, and of world adventure. As the story opens, a penguin standing at a slight distance from their group finds themselves suddenly floating alone as ice splits and breaks. The penguin, now adrift on a small piece of ice with only a fish in their mouth for company, sails far. Sails farther than anyone could ever imagine, seeing sights most have only ever dreamed about. However, as penguin continues along, the looming question becomes: when and how will penguin ever make it back home? Striking in its simplicity, modish, and funny– with a sharp look at climate change in the mix- Bye, Penguin! manages so much in its wordless styling and storytelling. Bye touching on numerous concepts, Bye, Penguin! is not only a winter/seasonal tale, but also one that can be read and appreciated in a multitude of ways, and throughout the seasons. A surprising, impressive picture book, with some of the most fantastic and sublime depictions of penguins I have seen, Bye, Penguin! is definitely recommended reading.

I received a copy of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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