by Shannon Anderson
Note: Penelope Perfect will be released in August 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.
When I was a kid, a lot of unnecessary worries preoccupied my thoughts. I used to think through every “what if” and worry about the outcome of every situation. Now that I’m an educator, I see this same anxiety every day in various classrooms. Although this anxiety can come in many forms, children often show it by trying to be a perfectionist. Penelope Perfect explores what happens when one perfectionist has a day that goes horribly wrong.
In Penelope Perfect, we are introduced to Penelope through illustrations of her life with text explaining her habits. For example, Penelope follows her exercise chart every morning and sharpens six pencils when she gets to school. She wakes up at the same time every morning and goes to bed at the same time every night. When a power outage alters her routine, Penelope must figure out how to make it through her less-than-perfect day. Along the way, she learns some lessons about how to be herself and stay flexible.
One thing I loved about this book was the illustrations. Penelope’s world really comes to life in front of you, and kids can see their own world reflected in the pictures. The illustrations also do a great job of showing just how unsettling a change in routine can be; straight lines and organized pictures give way to movement, chaos, and more dramatic images. The illustrations do a great job of contributing to the story, and for readers who rely on visual cues, Katie Kath’s beautiful images do the trick.
I also loved that the book portrayed Penelope’s family as mixed race, with an African-American mother and a caucasian father. I think it is so important for all children to be able to see their own experiences reflected in children’s books, and while the text doesn’t mention race, students can relate to Penelope’s family through the illustrations. The other characters in the book are portrayed as being very diverse, including the teacher and the other students in Penelope’s class.
Although the illustrations in this book were great and the story has a fantastic message, the rhyme scheme was a little clunky for me. While I could imagine using this story as a read aloud during a classroom lesson on emotions and feelings, I had to read the story outloud twice before being able to fall into the rhyme scheme. I felt like I had to anticipate how the next few sentences were going to go in order to figure out what words to emphasize. This is something that can be avoided with practice, but it does prevent the book from reaching a 4- or 5-star rating.
Overall, this book would be fantastic for students who struggle with perfectionism in their day-to-day lives. Teachers and parents alike could use this book to start conversations about perfection and how mistakes, change, and failure are okay. I give the book a strong 3 stars for its great message and excellent illustrations.
The Advanced Review Copy of Penelope Perfect I received included 5 full pages of valuable suggestions for using this book in the classroom. Strategies suggested include:
- Students writing skits about unexpected situations and how to deal with them
- Sharing stories of famous people who struggled with failure before becoming successful
- Posing “what if?” situations that allow students to think through worst case scenarios in order to develop strategies for dealing with them
As a classroom teacher, I would suggest this book for independent reading to students who may benefit from the message in the story. I would also use it to discuss failure and success with my students.
Title: Penelope Perfect
Author: Shannon Anderson
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
Release Date: August 15th, 2015
Price: US $15.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Free Spirit Publishing. All opinions in this review are my own!