P.I. Penguin and the Case of the Missing Bottle
Written by Bec J. Smith
Illustrated by Adit Galih
P.I. Penguin has an ongoing investigation into the disappearance of his parents. While that seems to be the lynchpin of the series, he does take on other cases along the way. In The Case of The Missing Bottle, he helps his friend Bella find a bottle that has turned up missing from her collection.
The book has many things to recommend it. In the beginning, it starts with a glossary of new words for kids to learn. I am always a fan of glossaries in kid’s books. I particularly enjoy this one because instead of having to break the flow of the story to look up words in the back of the book, this glossary puts the words front and center, exposing kids to the new words before they read the story even giving them page numbers. Next, the Illustrations are spot on. Full page, colorful and dynamic, the depictions of life under the sea and of the various characters P.I. meets along the way are truly engaging. I also enjoyed the very gentle message to keep the ocean clean and to recycle. Can we also just take a moment to enjoy a bottlenose dolphin with a bottle collection?
While this story is quite fun and shows the potential of the series, it does also raise some concerns for me. First of all is the story prose. The concept of telling the story using rhyming paragraphs is quite novel and a great way to encourage readers, however, the rhymes often seem forced to fit the format, adding cluttering details to the story or just not expressing the story in a clear way. Finally, this book is marketed for grades K-7. The issue here is while the kid-friendly illustrations and rhyming text works well for early readers, the vocabulary, sentence structure, and the ongoing/unresolved story of P.I.’s missing parents fits best with grades 3/4 and up and honestly this group will have progressed well past picture books, even taking into account most literacy difficulties. The outcome is that it comes off a bit clunky in execution. I would like to note that the concept of P.I.’s missing parents horrified my 15-year-old. He felt that it was not a good fit for any young children’s book in the way that it was presented.
"The penguin could not quite decide if they had run away to hide, or had they left him cast aside, or had their freedom been denied?"
As the mom of a child with severe learning disabilities, I was excited to run across this set of books, advertised to be a help to dyslexic readers. The book’s website https://www.aulexic.com.au/ was quite promising as it also offers a podcast and blog posts with some great information. Any book that encourages kids to read is a win in my book and this particular book is printed in a font that is easily accessible to dyslexic readers. My son noticed it immediately and had terrific things to say about the readability of the text in this book. That is a good enough endorsement for me.