About the Holiday
Today we celebrate the mysteries in life. Those little (and big) events that make us scratch our heads, rush to our favorite social media site, or ponder the greater meaning of life. It seems there’s always something we’d like to understand better, a conspiracy theory we’d like proved or disproved conclusively, or just a question that has always nagged at the back of one’s mind. Sometimes even the most obvious of occurrences aren’t exactly what they seem—as in today’s book. Take the opportunity of Curious Events Day to explore the questions you have!
By Jean Gourounas
A vigilant penguin sits beside an ice-fishing hole while snowflakes flutter in the air. Her line dips silently into the blue water. “Hey, what are you doing?” a smiling rabbit asks, coming up behind her. But the penguin only tells him to “shh!” The rabbit is an inquisitive little rascal, though, and sort of asks the obvious: “Are you fishing?” All this talking brings in the walrus, who’s also curious as to what’s happening. The bunny tells the walrus his view of the fishing idea.
Fishing! Well, the walrus wants to know if the penguin is catching anything. It looks grim, the rabbit says, just as a seal comes on the scene and asks the requisite question. “Shh!” the penguin tells them again. The seal repeats the previous conversation, asking “Are any fish biting?” The answer is still the same, though, and the bunny doesn’t know what’s wrong with those fish.
A moose approaches the group and, despite the fishing hole, the fishing pole, and the fishing line, asks what the penguin is doing. The others are happy to confirm the fishing interpretation of events. The moose is quicker on the draw to see that the fish are not biting, but wants to know why. Ah, the age-old question of fishermen everywhere. “We don’t know!” exclaim the seal and walrus. But the rabbit has decided to add a bit of erudition to the conversation: “I’m baffled,” he states.
The person who has just come along is also intrigued to know whether the penguin has been successful. “No!” rings out from the crowd. Then they all wonder what’s wrong. That may be good enough for everyone else, but the rabbit ups the ante with another big word: “I’m perplexed,” he admits. Next up is a polar bear, who just wants to know what’s going on. Having spent so much time trying to discover the same thing, the rest of the crew feel at one with the penguin and shout, “We’re fishing!” The rabbit includes the caveat “But the fish aren’t biting.”
The polar bear knows a thing or two about catching fish and inquires about the type of bait. Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. “Some cake,” answers the penguin. The idea of cake as fish bait doesn’t seem to trouble anyone. In fact, they can’t believe the fish haven’t jumped at the chance to have this tasty treat. The rabbit? Well, he’s just plain flummoxed. When a bull enters the picture, he takes one look around and asks, “Hey, are you guys having a party?” He gets filled in on the whole fishing/cake/not biting thing, and they all decide that “something’s fishy!”
At last it seems the penguin is going to succeed! She tells everyone to quiet down because she hears something. Bubbling up from deep below the ice comes, “SURPRISE!” as a school of fish wearing party hats wish a stunned newcomer “Happy Birthday!” And when they’ve nibbled their fill, the fish call up for “More cake, please!”
This sly puzzle of a story by Jean Gourounas will delight readers and keep them guessing until the very end. Along the way, children are given some hints that turn out not to be red herrings at all, but real clues to this gentle arctic mystery. Young readers may wonder why the penguin needs quiet, what the fish are waiting for, and even if there’s something to the bull’s suggestion of a party. Kids will giggle as the same questions and answers are asked over and over again in various ways, and don’t be surprised when your little one adds the words “baffled,” “perplexed,” and “flummoxed” to their growing vocabulary.
Gourounas’ rounded-off characters are cute and expressive, welcoming others to the group and the ongoing discussion with wide, wondering eyes. Sometimes they consider each other, while at other times they look right out at the reader, inviting them to join in too. The brown, textured paper and matte blue, white, brown, and black hues that define the various animals, work in conjunction with the text to create a low-key gathering above ground that is a humorous counterpoint to the festivities below. Little ones who might be concerned with the fate of the fish as they nibble on the cake will be cheered by the last page—and may want a piece of cake themselves to celebrate this funny book.
Ages 3 – 6
Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875316
Curious Events Day Activity
Haunted House Coloring Page
The month of October is full of curious events, spooky mysteries, and surprises. Here’s a printable Haunted House Coloring Page for you to enjoy. Add some ghosts and other curious characters from your imagination to the room!
Picture Book Review