My Penguin Osbert : BOOK MAMA’s Review For Kids

By: Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

We were having dinner at my mother-in-laws the other night.  Her ice maker has been on the fritz, and she lives alone so she had just been using her old ice trays rather than call a repairman.  She was helping my daughters get some cranberry juice—on the rocks—of course, and was popping the ice casually out of the trays while she was talking over their heads to me.  We both realized at the same time that both kids had gone utterly silent and were TRANSFIXED by the ice tray.

“Oh my gosh, what is that?”

“How do you do that?”

“Is that real ice?

“How did it get in there?”

“Where did you get that?”

“Mom, how come we don’t have one of those?”

Okay, these are the same kids who have i-pods, i-pads, nanos, shuffles, DS, laptops and God knows what else.  All their homework and classroom information is on-line.  They make movies of themselves constantly, editing on the computer, adding soundtracks and title sequences.  They keep spare pairs of 3-D glasses in their back pockets!  Not really, but they are “in the know” electronically, and they were floored by an ICE TRAY.

“Well, watch kids, it’s really quite simple.  You walk over to the sink with the empty tray in your hands, then you fill it with water!  Then you…..wait for it…PUT IT IN THE FREEZER!

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“What if you need a lot of ice?”

“You can have as many ice trays as you want.”


Yes, wow—one of life’s many tiny miracles—the ice tray.  Just goes to show that the good old-fashioned days weren’t as sucky as you may have thought, kids.

Here’s another fun example:  my older daughter and I were talking about music.  She takes guitar lessons and always feels somewhat torn when she has to choose songs for the concerts.

“It’s weird, Mom.  It’s like part of me is country and part of me is rock n’ roll.”

And so of course I then had to tell her all about the Donny & Marie show and the weekly “I’m a little bit country, and I’m a little bit rock n’ roll” segment.  I sang the whole intro bit for her, told her about the Osmonds, sang the goodbye song—not hesitating even once on the lyrics.

“Gosh, Mom.  What a cool show.”

“Yep.  And they had ice skaters!  The ice angels—with coordinating outfits and a special rink that was right under where Donny and Marie sang.”

“No way!  Ice skaters?  That is amazing.”

“I agree.  Truly amazing.  And you know what else?  It was on one time a week—8 p.m. on Friday night, and if you missed it, you missed it.  No Tivo, no DVR, nada.”

“Oh my gosh, how scary!”

“A little bit scary yes, but a lot to look forward to every week.”  And a lot for our parents to hold over our head and bribe us with as well.

“I wish we had shows like that,” my poor deprived daughter says as she mopes away.

Yes, well, perhaps there will again be a toothy brother and sister pair to wow the masses, in the meantime, you’ve got your Joe Bros and Hannah “I’m too sexy for my studio” Montana, and I-Carly and the rest—so suffer in silence, little one.

The whole thing does really beg the question though:  when is enough enough?  Do we really need all the crap?  When we didn’t have it, we didn’t know we wanted it, right?  I LIVED for Donny & Marie.  I don’t know, maybe it would seem really lame to me now.  My kids have most of the “apps” for this and that.  They don’t have internet access or phones yet, but most of their friends do.  They want rock band and Wii sports resort for Christmas this year, and they claim “everyone else has those already” too.

But then, what confuses me, is we spend hours doing jigsaw puzzles together.  The other night I taught them how to play tiddly-winks and jacks—they were shocked and amazed and a little pissed that I had waited so long to unveil such brilliant games.

Then, the capper, my husband hammered a simple hook into the post outside and hung a little ring on a long rope and the game is: swing the rope and try to catch the ring on the hook.  That’s it!  Hours of fun for the whole family!  You can talk and toss the ring.  We can laugh and still toss the ring.  It’s social; it’s funny sometimes!   It didn’t seem like it would be all that great when it was being “installed,” but it’s turned out to be pretty damn fun—kinda like tiddly-winks and ice trays.  (It’s hanging right outside the bar which may explain some of the appeal at least for the adults.)

So in this funny little book, My Penguin Osbert, Joe has become frustrated over the years with Santa.  One year he wanted a trampoline, and instead he got a pogo stick.  One year he wanted a real race car and (surprise!) got a toy car instead.  So this year he is VERY clear, and he actually gets what he thinks he wants—an honest to goodness PENGUIN straight from the arctic.

But, not surprisingly, it’s not as easy to care for a penguin as Joe thought.  Osbert the penguin likes herring for breakfast and icy cold baths and much prefers playing outside in the snow to just about anything else.  Joe does his best for his new friend but eventually realizes that maybe it’s not best for Osbert to live with Joe, and so he has to sacrifice for his pal.  Be careful what you wish for, right?

All those fancy electronics are cool and jazzy and semi-amazing, but maybe not quite as social or simple and easy as a good puzzle.  And sure, penguins are great, cool little creatures, but they need lots of care and a special habitat and potentially some major life adjustments for little Joe.

Joe learns, like we all eventually do, you can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.  (Mick knows.)

This book is a favorite every year, and I just found out that there is a follow up Osbert book—Osbert in Love!

Happy reading,


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