I have this friend who really loves film. He's all Day for Night this and Satyajit Ray that, and he thinks I'm the same way, probably because I used to live in New York and I've read some Thomas Pynchon. But it's a lie, what he thinks about me. Just because I can use the word 'Satyricon' in a sentence does not mean I want to go see Synecdoche New York. "I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was really great in Twister," is how I try to explain things to him, but he never seems to entirely believe me.*
Which brings us to Oliver Jeffers's newest picture book. Yes, it does.
Our dear friends the little boy in the striped shirt and the penguin from Lost and Found are back, playing backgammon and shouting through tin can telephones at each other. Being boys. When the penguin decides he wants to fly, the boy is as supportive as ever, providing research and technology assistance. But they get separated on a fact-finding mission to the zoo, and the penguin falls in with a fellow who wants to shoot him out of a cannon.
In other words, it's midcentury European cinema.
I'm serious: there's slapstick! Penguins can't really fly, but they look funny when they flap their wings real hard.
Hope in the face of insurmountable odds! Despite the advice of a very thick book entitled 'Penguins Can't Fly' the friends persist in their quest.
Pathos! "Had his friend even noticed he was missing?"
Drama! Will the boy get there in time to stop this crazy scheme?
My favorite picture is the one just after the boy has (SPOILER) successfully caught his finally flying friend. We see the kid gesticulating, pointing and hollering. His dialogue is not recorded - we are at a remove from the action, Oliver Jeffers's books are always like silent movies - but he is very likely shouting, "And you were up so high? And then I ran? And I didn't think I was going to catch you? And then I DID!!"
So this is as much a book for me and my family as it is for my cinephile friend and his family. There is an explosion, after all, and a happy ending.
*I might have finally convinced Peter that I am a total lowbrow when it comes to movies. We borrowed Cannonball Run from Netflix and watched it with his family, nearly peeing ourselves at Jack Elam's popeyed performance as a shady proctologist. Although if you were thinking of sharing this modern classic with your children, you should know about the warning that I discovered on IMDB's Parental Guide page: "Funny cleavage shown throughout the movie." Cleavage funny! Boy, that's lower-brow than I am.