A Penguin Story

{by Antoinette Portis}

I heard Antoinette Portis speak this summer at SCBWI in LA and she was a sheer delight — funny, smart, and so willing to share her creative process. I missed an opportunity to pick up a signed copy of this book earlier this summer at Once Upon A Time in Montrose, and have been kicking myself ever since. I’d say soaking up her picture book brain in person was a worthy replacement.

Take note of these bright, beautiful endpapers. We’ll be back for these.

Edna, our penguin heroine, sees endless white, black, and blue. She doesn’t complain or act like a brat about it, but she is convinced there is something else. And off she goes in search of it.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this illustration. She’s been shimmying up and down icebergs and sliding long distances through the Antarctic snow, and she won’t give up. And here, you, the reader, can rally for her because SHE’S RIGHT! She doesn’t know it yet, but you do, and even though you loved her before, you love her a billion times more now.

Can we talk about color again? I know we just went all tetradic-fancy-color-scheme-boom last time, but I just can’t help myself.

Ok, so after Edna flies through the air with some fish bones, she lands face first in a snow drift. NEXT TO THE SOMETHING ELSE. (Sorry for yelling, it’s just so…something else!) The page turn here is out of control amazing, so I’m not gonna spoil it for you. But trust me, when she digs her little penguin head out of this bank and realizes where she is and what she sees? Exhilarating.

This something else is orange. ORANGE. Of course! Antoinette Portis could have made it red or yellow or green, but orange! The Antarctic scientists have orange gear, orange planes, and orange homes.

Colors in a complementary color scheme exist directly opposite one another on the color wheel. Here, blue and orange. Edna’s real world and her something else. Design schemes utilizing complementary colors are especially vibrant and strong, because when paired together, each makes its complement appear brighter. And isn’t this Edna’s realization? That her world is brighter because she knows of the something else? What Antoinette Portis did visually to carry this story is nothing short of dazzling.

But why is this endpaper green? No spoilers. Read this one, watch this one, experience this one.


  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    this book looks adorable and i love the illustrations. i have to pick up a copy the next time i see it.

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    So good. Was off my radar big time…it was released in 2009!

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    What fun. I’ll add this to my reading list. :)

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Good idea, Priscilla! You have a penguin story, too, right? It will be on my reading list when the time comes!

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Ooh, this one looks great. So deceivingly simple. Edna is right, I’ll never get tired of looking!

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Plus, a penguin named Edna?! Love her.

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Great post, and I love the book also. Simple, honest graphics and great color. Thanks for sharing this one.

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    She said that it was ultimately a book about longing. So beautiful, right?

  • Posted September 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I love looking at a book through *your* lens and seeing what you see! Thanks!

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    MY BRAIN! MY BRAIN! Sorry for shouting. It’s just that my brain hurts from so much awesomeness! What a beautiful book. Can’t wait to read it. Those colors are so very attractive! Now I know why I am drawn to certain books. All that color theory has got me thinkin’! MY BRAIN!

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink


  • tinamcho
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Another great color lesson! This book looks fun. I’ll be on the lookout for it. (My grandpa had a sister named Edna.)

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Aunt Edna?!

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Aunt Edna?! Mine had an Estelle.

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    So many subtle levels of genius. Thanks for sharing. I’m inspired!

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    So awesome.

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Penguins became my favorite animal after a class trip to an aquarium. This was way before (I don’t want to say exactly how long :p) ) all the great movies with penguins. So that alone would motivate me to take a look at this book but this blogpost has me in suspense. And the longing! Oh, Carter, you’ve done it again!

  • Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Suspense and longing! And penguins! Love it.

  • Posted September 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous! And so interesting to look at PBs from an illustrator’s eye view!

  • Posted September 12, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Спасибо за ваш рассказ о полезной книге для детей и художников! :)

  • Posted September 30, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    I saw this book months ago but didn’t buy it (I should have!) Really enjoy reading your note of color scheme here :)