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Penguin Problems: A Review & Giveaway


(written by Kathleen and Dana)

You think you’ve got problems? You haven’t met this penguin yet.

Penguin Problems by Jory John is the story of a grumpy, pessimistic, and somehow completely lovable penguin. This penguin has problems. His beak is cold. His flippers ache. He is hungry. The sun is too bright. He looks silly when he waddles. It seems nothing will make this penguin happy. A walrus comes along and tries to change penguin’s attitude… but can he?

If you talk about attitude and mindset in your classroom, this book will be a great addition to your read aloud set. Penguin Problems is all about perspective right up until the final, unexpected page. We would love to ask kids which character they identify more with – the penguin or the walrus. Kathleen thinks this book would pair nicely with Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberly and James Dean.

Plus, this book is laugh-out-loud funny. Really, it is hilarious. (Hint: don’t skip the front flap.)

Penguin Problems can become one of your go-to mentor texts. The text is so simple, just a few words on every page. Since the text is not overwhelming, you can really zero in on a few craft moves:

Two craft moves from the front flap:
1. Use of punctuation to create voice
Examples: “What?!” and “Listen: I’m going back to bed.”

2. Intentional use of ‘and’ to start a sentence
Example“I’m sure you’d just get a bunch of paper cuts, anyway. And you’d probably bend the pages. And you’d get your little fingerprints everywhere.”

Three craft moves from within the book:
1. Repeated line
Example: “Oh, great. An orca. Oh, great. A leopard seal. Oh, great. A shark.”

2. Cadence
All the penguin’s sentences are short. The whole rhythm of language changes when the walrus speaks in very long sentences. This change in cadence creates an interesting distinction in voice between the two characters.

3. Intentional use of ‘and’ to start a sentence
Example: “After all, I do love the mountains. And the ocean. And the sky. And I have friends and family.”

We enjoyed this book so much we knew we had to talk about it, so we met on Google Hangouts one night to chat about Penguin Problems. You can see our conversation here:

We are happy to announce that Penguin Random House is donating a copy of Penguin Problems and a tote bag to one lucky winner. Leave a comment below to enter!

Comments are closed.

The winner of the giveaway is Stefanie. The winner was chosen by a random number generator. Stefanie’s comment was:

I would love to have this book for my campus! My 4th and 5th grade teacher are just starting to use picture book in their lessons. This would be a great addition to their new collection with ideas already to go!


  • This giveaway is for a copy of Penguin Problems.  Many thanks to Penguin Random House for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Penguin Problems, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, September 16th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. We will use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names we will announce at the bottom of this post, by Monday, September 19th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Penguin Random House will ship your book and tote bag out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – (Penguin Problems). Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

39 thoughts on “Penguin Problems: A Review & Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. This looks like a great blog recommended to me by a coworker. I am really excited to get the Penguin Problems book when it comes out! Looks like it will hit a lot of benchmarks and also teach mindset as well!


  2. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Win or not, this book is going on my read aloud list for this year.
    The simple text sounds perfect for my kindergarteners.


  3. We using mentor texts to look at craft moves in my Middle School classroom!!! This one looks awesome, and the laugh out loud part will be a big hit! Pete the Cat is also a winner for us!
    Thanks for the post!


  4. I would love to have this book for my campus! My 4th and 5th grade teacher are just starting to use picture book in their lessons. This would be a great addition to their new collection with ideas already to go!


  5. I loved watching the video of your book discussion. I think it’d be so great to show children as an example of how we can talk about books. I can also think of a few students who would relate to the penguin. I hope to add this book to my second grade library! Your blog has been so helpful in choosing mentor texts and making my Writers Workshop more engaging. Thank you!


  6. This book has so much to offer readers. Love the attention that you have drawn to humour. I think we sometimes forget the role a laugh-out-book plays in the lives of our readers. Can’t wait to share this book with colleagues!


  7. I just got my copy of this book yesterday and I agree about these craft moves you listed. This book is ripe with many teaching possibilities!

    Loved listening into your conversation. What a great way to talk about a book and share. (We should do more of these going-forward.)


  8. Penguin Problems will fit right in with our mindset work, and I love your suggestions on how to use it for writing moves. More bang for the buck! Thanks for the opportunity!


  9. Wow! We always start the year with Tacky the Penguin books. This year I am working on growing our mindsets. And this book has craft moves, too! It sounds like a wonderful mentor text for 2nd grade. 🐧✏️📚🎉 Thanks for the recommendation.


  10. I enjoyed the video. The excitement both of you have for the book and the craft moves is contagious. My name is Wendy Teplansky and I am a middle and high school English teacher, as well as a mother if two boys. What do you think about using the book with my older students? They find (7th and 9th) punctuation and tone intimidating. I feel like the book could be a non threatening way to teach difficult concepts and get the conversation about the use of punctuation to create tone, mood, characterization, etc. What do you ladies think?


    • Hi Wendy! So glad to see you here at Two Writing Teachers. I think this book would be a fun way to introduce tone to older students. I agree with your instincts! While younger children will appreciate the simpler humor, older students (and adults) can appreciate the nuances of language and deeper meaning!


  11. Penguin Problems sounds like a great book to add to my classroom collection. We talk allot about growth mindset and the power of positive thinking. Thanks for drawing attention to the notable craft moves, that adds value!


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