December 31, 2018

Penguin Days

Written by Sara Leach
Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press
104 pp.
Ages 7-10
November 2018

Eight-year-old Lauren of Sara Leach's Slug Days (Pajama Press, 2017) has returned and now the young child on the autism spectrum must find new coping strategies beyond the school and home situations with which she contended in her first book.
From Penguin Days by Sara Leach, illus. by Rebecca Bender
Lauren and her parents and baby sister Lexi have driven from western Canada to North Dakota for the wedding of her Auntie Joss, who is getting married to Almost-Uncle Charlie. It's a long drive but far better than a repeat of the screaming plane fiasco years earlier. But the travel stress is just step one in the journey that Lauren must take to act as Auntie Joss's flower girl. She must also prepare herself for the many people who will be present, including her cousins: Sophia, 12; Zoe, 10; and Kevin, 9.
I didn't want to have a restful summer. I wanted to have a fun summer with Irma ... I had to meet my cousins instead. Which wasn't restful at all. It made my insides feel like squirmy snakes. (pg. 25)
But Lauren's unrest moves into the realm of confusion when Kevin mentions that he has to wear a penguin suit (slang for a tuxedo) and Lauren thinks wearing a penguin onesie would be preferable to the itchy purple flower girl dress she must wear. Unfortunately, when she learns that Zoe and Sophia will also be flower girls, and she twirls in her dress like Sophia, she makes herself dizzy and throws up.
From Penguin Days by Sara Leach, illus. by Rebecca Bender
The reactions of those around her embarrass her and she dashes outside and encounters Kevin who takes her to see the cows in the barn. Though he warns her about being in the barn, she climbs onto fence and falls into a stall with calves. In the mayhem of her screaming, the calves run out and Almost-Uncle Charlie comes to the rescue.
From Penguin Days by Sara Leach, illus. by Rebecca Bender
From the dress to the barn and the rehearsal and its dinner, things always get resolved when Lauren remembers to use her strategies like square breathing or focusing on things she likes to talk about, like lizards and penguins, and when those around her consider how stressful new situations are for her and attempt to make things work for Lauren. But there are many circumstances which Lauren must endure first in order to get through to the other side of okay. Thankfully Sara Leach shows us that Lauren can have slug days when everything goes wrong, and penguin days when she has to dress up and get along with people she rarely sees, and still have wonderful butterfly days when all is right with the world. With the addition of Rebecca Bender's charming black-and-white illustrations that depict Lauren in all her moods, Penguin Days becomes a story of resiliency and overcoming anxiety and stressful situations for all children, with ASD and not.
From Penguin Days by Sara Leach, illus. by Rebecca Bender

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