Evil Emperor Penguin by Laura Ellen Anderson
Published by David Flicking Books/Scholastic, April 25, 2017. Paperback of 64 pages at $8.99. Intended for ages 7 – 10, grades 2 – 5.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: With a spear in one hand and his cape splaying behind him, Evil Emperor Penguin walks forward, fireworks exploding behind him as he sets out to take over the world. To his right is evil henchman, or should I say “evil snowman,” Eugene, the happiest, cheeriest minion one could have. To the lead’s left is Number 8, his octopus sidekick who’s fond of knitting. Eugene looks joyous on this cover, while Number 8 is frantic at the explosive display. Creator Laura Ellen Anderson has created a funny frontpiece to introduce readers to her characters. Phil Falco was the designer of this cover. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover, “Far away in the icy wastes of Antarctica lives a warm and cuddly, kind-hearted penguin who only wants to do good in the world…NOT! This is no ordinary penguin. This is Evil Emperor Penguin! Of course, every evil ruler needs a sidekick and a minion, and Evil Emperor Penguin is no different. That’s why he has Number 8, a very polite and thoughtful purple octopus who knits, and Eugene, the incredibly cuddly abominable snowman who loves nothing more than a hug. Join this fearsome team of evil as they try to take over the world — and obviously, destroy it — but get waylaid by evil cats, rogue farts, killer plants, and visiting sisters.” I’ve enjoyed both Bunny vs. Monkey books, also from David Flicking Books and Scholastic, so I’m hoping that this book is just as good. Overall grade: A
The characters: Evil Emperor Penguin is a character that readers will enjoy: brilliant, twisted, and always thwarted. He wishes to dominate the world, creates some amazing inventions, yet is always stopped. The joy he feels at what his success will bring him is upstaged by the rage he feels during his failure. He’s an excellent comedic character. Number 8 has a few appearances in this book. He’s the epitome of class and elegance, yet he helps his maniacal master. This character is not as developed as Eugene who often steals the focus from his master. Eugene has a heart of gold and wants to please Evil Emperor Penguin, but always manages to do the wrong thing. At one point, he leaves EEP and joins up with another evil genius animal. His return to the fold will undoubtedly elicit sighs of joy from readers. Evil Cat and Ruth, Evil Emperor Penguin’s sister, also make appearances and they cause the protagonist some very funny frustration. But it’s Eugene who carries the book, because of his innocence, which overshadows the title character. Overall grade: B+
The art: The emotions that Anderson gets from her characters are terrific. Evil Emperor Penguin is gloriously gleeful when he explains how his latest plan will finally make him ruler, becoming silly with his anger and depression at again coming up far short. In fact, I preferred to see sad EEP that the boastful one, because it’s just so funny. Number 8 is fun looking because an octopus in a formal jacket, monocle, and thin, handlebar mustache is funny just standing around. Having him knit is a bonus chuckle. Eugene is destined to be a best selling plush doll to children of all ages: he’s cute, sweet, and when he gets mad, which isn’t often, it’s heartbreaking to witness. The colors on this book don’t have a credited colorist, so I’m assuming it’s also by Anderson. This is a book full of bold colors that bring the visuals to life. I particularly love the oranges in “Have No Fear.” The art on this book is detailed and fun. Overall grade: A
The final line: Though slightly overshadowed by his minion, Evil Emperor Penguin is a delightful read for young readers to see that evil never triumphs. Funny and sweet visuals push this above other books. Overall grade: A-
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