Thursday, June 9, 2016

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups, and A School Visit

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups (Balzer and Bray, 2015)

Some miraculous moments remind me that connections matter, no matter how fleeting they might seem. Over the last Christmas holiday, my family and I were back in the States. I was scanning the book section in Target and gasped. A familiar cover beamed back at me. 

I hadn't seen Tadgh Bentley's penguin story since we'd exchanged critiques almost four years ago. Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups, was the second story I saw of his, and I loved it. 

I remember when he heard from an agent who was interested in it and sent us back a menagerie of penguins to choose from. Apparently, his soon-to-be-agent didn't like the original style and asked Tadgh to redraw the original. We casted our votes on the penguin we liked best and then lost touch for a while. 

Fast forward three years or so when I'm walking in Target and see a little penguin who looked familiar. I felt oddly proud, as if I'd written it, to see the book on the shelf. I knew a bit of the struggle behind its creation and couldn't have been happier to see it triumph. I snatched it up and took it to the checkout, excited to show my family.

I sent him a congratulatory email and heard back from him. Then the wheels started turning. I'm friends with the principal of the local British school. 

Tadgh, being from London before transplanting to the U.S., seemed a natural fit for a school visit. I introduced them via email and left them alone to talk to each other. The result: The school invited Tadgh out to do a visit. 

I was lucky enough to attend two of his presentations, and his visits were as engaging as his book. He's a teacher, and it showed in the way he expertly reigned the kids in when needed. 

He also tailored his presentation to each grade we visited. For the fourth grade, he did a brief presentation on shapes and what they mean in a drawing. 

Then he had each child drew his/her own monster. My son chose the triangular shape, the shape of action, danger and adventure. 

For the first grade, Tadgh (pronounced 'Teeg' if you were wondering like I was) did a read-aloud, which works really well with the interactive nature of his book. 

The kids were really into it and convinced him to draw Little Penguin eating a hot dog, which he did, on the spot, on the whiteboard, in a room with fifty first graders tuning in. Impressive to say the least.

Oh what a treat to be there and to meet Tadgh in person. I could never have known that a couple of critique exchanges would lead to a school visit that I would also be able to enjoy. Make those connections and keep them open. Little things lead to big things. 

And, by the way, if you want a great resource for school visit information, join Michelle Cusolito's Facebook page: Creating Engaging School Visits

Have a great weekend. 


  1. You reminded me poignantly, with this post, how much I both love and envy illustrators!

  2. Wow, sounds like a great presentation!