Today we are pleased to welcome to our blog author Iona Rangeley, whose series Einstein the Penguin celebrates the release of its second book this month. Last year, the first Einstein the Penguin book was a huge success and the next book in the series publishes this month. The newest book, Einstein the Penguin: The Case of the Fishy Detective, sees the loveable penguin Einstein return with a new adventure involving a surprise kidnapping and a mystery to solve.
Iona started writing Einstein the Penguin while she was studying English at Oxford, stating that writing children’s books was more fun than studying for final exams. Now, what started as a project alongside her studies has been published with HarperCollins Children’s Books and was named The Sunday Times Children’s Book of the week.
The stories are an enjoyable mix of whodunnit and a hilarious story of a penguin who comes to live with two children, causing them to put aside their sibling squabbles and come to his rescue. This is a lovely choice of a class read for Lower KS2, and children will enjoy the parody of incompetent teachers/zoo keepers/detectives/parents while also prompting several discussion points about right and wrong. The series makes a fun next step for readers who have enjoyed Paddington or Erica’s Elephant.
Author Iona Rangely stopped by our blog this week to reflect more on the interesting discussion points the series could raise with children about kindness and welcoming new people…
Kindness Lessons from Einstein the Penguin by Iona Rangeley
When I started writing Einstein The Penguin, it didn’t occur to me that it should have any particular moral. I knew the books that inspired me, the mood I wanted to create and the personalities of the characters I wanted to write about, but there was no great theme in my head other than adventure and fun. When other people pointed out that it could teach children about kindness and helping your friends, it both surprised me and made perfect sense.
In Chapter 2, when the Stewarts meet Einstein at the zoo, Mrs Stewart tells him: ‘You must come and stay with us whenever you like. Penguins are always welcome at our house.’ We suspect that she’s only really saying it to stop the children from whining, and so when Einstein takes the invitation seriously and shows up on their doorstep that evening he is welcomed in out of awkward politeness more than anything.
But a friendship soon blossoms and the lengths to which the Stewarts would go to help Einstein strengthen every day, from making penguin-appropriate versions of meals to tracking a long-lost friend across the country. When they drop Einstein off at the airport in the final chapter Mrs Stewart repeats the phrase: this time she really means it.
Paddington was naturally a big inspiration for Einstein, and the comparison has often been made between Paddington and stories about refugees, or child evacuees. I’m also a big Judith Kerr fan. Both Paddington and The Tiger Who Came To Tea show animals welcoming themselves into a family’s home, causing many scrapes and inconveniences along the way, but ultimately being met with kindness and love, never rejection.
Though books like these are largely written for their humour, they also contain important lessons. The way we treat animals helps us learn how to treat humans. I hope books like mine can act as thought experiments for children to apply to more real-world scenarios, like how to treat the new child at school or the family from another country that has moved in across the street. Of course, stories take these situations to the extreme, and we don’t actually expect children to take their new friends to school in their backpacks, like Arthur does with Einstein. But lessons about hospitality and welcoming strangers are relevant at all times of history, not least today, and it’s important for children to see kindness not just as an obligation but as a path to the adventures that come with meeting new people and making new connections.
Einstein the Penguin: The Case of the Fishy Detective is available to purchase online from Amazon or from Bookshop.org.
The first book of the series is available here.
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