Reviews for Polka Dot Penguin Pottery

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
The author-illustrator team behind Henry's First-Moon Birthday (2001) and Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding (2006) joins forces again, this time tackling writer's (and artist's) block. Young author Aspen is out of ideas; her pages are "blank, blank, blank." Her perceptive grandparents suggest that she needs a break and take her to Polka Dot Penguin Pottery, where kids paint ceramics. At first she is excited, but the dreaded block sets in again, and she is paralyzed, unable to put brush to ceramic egg. It takes a mess, started by mistake with help from baby sister Olivia, to get the creative juices flowing again. The problem is a familiar one to many kids: a blank paper or the start of a project can be intimidating. Cultural details add an Asian flavor to the story, such as the Cantonese words for maternal grandparents, pohpoh (grandma) and gunggung (grandpa). The creative design, with the book opening vertically instead of horizontally, reinforces the idea that inspiration often involves a fresh look at things. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
When a little girl has writer's block, her grandparents take her to a paint-your-own-pottery place. There she gets her artistic groove back. The book's premise strains credulity and the vertical format seems rather pointless, but the up-with-creativity message is worthwhile. Heo's illustrations recall the best detail work at a kids' art show. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

This spirited story from the team behind Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding (Atheneum, 2006) is narrated by Aspen Colorado Kim Chee Lee (her nom de plume), a seasoned author who favors pigtails and bright A-line dresses. Aspen opens by describing her writing process, lining up words "like a fruit seller who chooses her best mangoes and pomegranates and bananas and puts them on display." But lately she's had writer's block. Thinking Aspen needs inspiration, her grandparents, GungGung and PohPoh, take her to a paint-your-own pottery studio, where she selects an egg to decorate. At first, Aspen just stares at the egg, but as she acclimates to the unfamiliar activity (and the partylike atmosphere that's building in the store) she finds that getting unstuck can be as simple as trying something new. The book is oriented vertically, with pages that open calendar-style, and Heo's illustrations feature creamy surfaces, peppy patterns, and swirling collages that include a miscellany of art supplies, cupcakes, balloons, and polka-dotted penguins displayed in playfully skewed perspectives. Creatively inclined readers may be similarly inspired to explore new methods and media. Ages 4-8. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 October

Gr 1-3--Aspen is a young writer who hasn't been able to compose for awhile now; though she climbs to her tree house, dons her writing clothes, stuffs her pockets with crackers, and sits quietly awaiting inspiration, ideas just do not come. Her grandparents attempt to allay her stymied imagination by taking her to a pottery-painting studio. The child finds she also has the same aggravating problem getting started with this new form of creativity. Only after another studio participant imparts gentle words of wisdom does Aspen allow herself to be willing to make a mess, which ignites her imagination for both painting and writing. Naïve-style oil, pencil, and collage illustrations are unpredictably laid out in a top-to-bottom format rather than side-to-side. The girl's frustration and eventual pleasure as she works through her writer's and painter's blocks are revealed in single-page and full-spread pictures. Good motivation for children who need to activate their artistic side.--Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI

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