Monday, September 5, 2011

2 1/2 Lessons from a Penguin

"1--2--3, 4--2, 3--6--0, 2 1/ 2, 0." No, these are not the numbers for a combination lock. Nor are they the numbers to a  Swiss bank account, but they are equally important. They are numbers that teach us, and later remind us, to march to our rhythm.  Too often everyone, kids included, get caught up in keeping up with others, in trying to be like others instead of just doing and being whatever it is we do and be best at.

Tacky the Penguin has no such hesitations. He marches however he wants and doesn't care a frozen shrimp what his iceberg companions Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect think. Tacky has much to teach. Splashy cannonballs have a way of breaking the monotony of day-to-day routine. Think about it. Have you ever been out walking the neighborhood on an egg-scorcher of a day and noticed a sprinkler in someone's front yard taunting you to run through it? Did you run through it? Uh-huh. That's what I thought. Tacky would have, and I can't blame him...neither would the neighbors. It's hot out, so why not. They might even join you.

Tacky reminds us of the importance of music. Not the secret stuff that plays privately in our head, but the stuff that everyone can hear. "How many toes does a fish have? And how many wings on a cow? I wonder, yup, I wonder." Now that is great music. Does it have to make sense? No. And so what if it's off-key. Crank up the volume. Sing with everything you've got...and not just in the car as you head home from work or an awesome date. Sing when the mood hits and who cares how you sound. Just sing. Doing so provides a rhythm that carries you through the day, makes cleaning the igloo speed by faster than a dolphin, and gets the endorphins flowing. It has this magical way of lifting a mood to heights not thought possible, and yet the view is spectacular.

Everyone runs into their share of "hunters" once in a while. They're not fun. They come with "maps and traps and rocks and locks" and definitely look rough and tough. The trick is to not run behind an iceberg and hide. The real Hawaiian shirt trick is to stand and face the growl. Most of us are right there (or wish we were) with Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect, hiding. That is, after all, the usual natural reaction when a threat appears. But, Tacky takes a different approach. He's brilliant, actually. He lays his sardines out there, daring them to "bring it." As is often the case, the antagonist is confronted with something he didn't expect...confidence. It's hard to continue following the maps and traps and rocks and locks when the path is blocked by something as formidable as confidence. When you think about it, though, anyone who can wear a Hawaiian shirt, do splashy cannonballs, and joyfully sing "How many toes does a fish have?" deserves respect and admiration...and to be learned from.

So march, 1--2--3, 4--2, 3--6--0, 2 1/2, 0, and run through the neighbors sprinkler. I did.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1988

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