Review by Ian Keogh
The Penguin Café at the End of the World is one of those publications straddling the line between children’s book and graphic novel. Anat Warshavsky provides charming illustrations to accompany Nurit Zarchi’s typeset text, but there are enough of them to qualify as sequential storytelling, drawn with a childlike flatness and simplicity.
It delivers what’s promised on the cover. Three penguins decide to open a café in Antarctica, and when it comes to what’s on the menu there can only be one choice: Peng-Winter Stew. After all, they know how to make it well, and it’s most delicious, as it notes on the sign above the café door.
Zarchi has a long track record in Israel, almost every online biography noting over a hundred books for children covering multiple genres, while Warshavsky’s background is in illustration and design rather than comics. That sensibility is apparent in his compositions, designs for the three penguins, and that he restricts the illustrations to primary colours. The result of their collaboration is a cheerful meditation on friendship and perseverance. After all, the remote choice of location ensures restricted footfall, despite the smell of warm cinnamon wafting across the South Pole. Perhaps a Penguin Café orchestra could be advised.
Books for very young children are a complete lottery, as there’s no predicting what they’ll like, nor is there a certainty that what one child likes will appeal to another. Yet Zarchi’s track record suggests her instincts are better than most when it comes to judging that appeal. The Penguin Café at the End of the World has a whimsy, lacks any threat and is strongly drawn. Take a look.