Any publication that encourages primary-age children to read and enjoy science fiction is going to get a thumbs-up by me. My granddaughter and I acquired the first two books at the school’s Book Fair, where I was dismayed to see the welter of sugar-pink and purple covers covered with sparkling stars about pets, dolls and fairies intended for girls.
A friendly Year 5 girl nudged Frankie. ‘Look in the Boys section. There’s some cool adventure books there.’
She was right. That was where we found the Space Penguins books, which Frankie scooped up, flicking through the pages. She immediately decided she wanted to take these home because of the enjoyably madcap illustrations.
What’s black and white, and flies faster than the speed of light? The Space Penguins! They’re the ice-cool crew of the spaceship Tunafish. With their pioneering flying skills and resistance to the deep freeze, these intergalactic avians are going where no fin has gone before. Captain T Krill, Rocky Waddle, Fuzz Allgrin and Splash Gordon are on a mission to explore new planets, rescue alien life, and battle their former comrade-in-wings: Dark Wader. Alert! Alert! In Cosmic Crash! the penguins splash-land on a watery planet, they find themselves in the tentacles of a monstrous sea creature. Can they escape with their ship in one piece or are they well and truly sunk?
As you can tell by the blurb, the books are delivered with a stream of puns, shamelessly plugging into science fiction classics with the wordplay around the names of the characters – and using non-stop adventure to keep young readers and listeners hooked. Each of the penguins has well-defined characteristics, and the dialogue had both of us laughing aloud at times – though there were a number of jokes only I got. Though I’m quite comfortable with that as the best children’s books recognise that adults can spend significant chunks of their lives reading stories aloud and reward us accordingly.
I like the premise that NASA decided penguins were better suited to space travel than humans as they can swim through zero gravity without losing control and are far better acclimatised to the cold of deep space. Their ship, the Tunafish is equipped with an extensive supply of frozen fish and a cool onboard computer – and they are ready for the next daft adventure. Is the story believable? Not really – but it features one emergency after another to test the space penguins’ courage and ingenuity. Needless to say, they all emerge with credit – however, they still haven’t managed to evade their nemesis, former crew member Dark Wader, which sets up the team for the next adventure in Galaxy Race!, the next book in the series. I don’t think Frankie and I will be waiting for the school book fair before we get hold of it, though…