Birds of a Feather Read Together

by Judy Newman

I have heard from many teachers over the years that their students give them fabulous ideas for children’s book characters.


Some teachers, like author and former second grade teacher Helen Lester, actually leave teaching, take their students’ inspiration with them, and become bestselling children’s book authors.

Quite a few of Helen Lester’s characters are based on her former students, including Buddy Rabbit (Listen, Buddy), Pinkerton Pig (Me First), Wodney Wat (Hooway for Wodney Wat), Princess Penelope (Princess Penelope’s Parrot), and Twitchly Fidget (Something Might Happen).

And then there’s Tacky the Penguin, the boisterous bird who is also based on one of Helen’s students, and the lovable character of the first Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week of 2023.


“Charming and oh-so-neatly put together.” —Kirkus Reviews


Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect—as you might guess—are all prim and proper. They sing sweetly, use their best manners, and march in unison. But Tacky wears loud shirts (like the Huckapoo shirts we coveted in the 1970s), loud greetings (like the way my dad used to enter our house when he and my mom drove down from Boston to visit us in Montclair, New Jersey), and loud splashes into the water (like my nephew Christian’s very dramatic cannonball dives that make Sophie Rae giggle).

It's too cold for cannonballs, so Sophie Rae and Uncle Christian play inside with their penguin friend.

The other penguins do not approve of Tacky’s behavior, but are too polite to say anything. However, when scary poachers arrive at the iceberg hunting for penguins, it’s Tacky’s tackiness that saves the day!


Tacky the Penguin is a staff favorite at Scholastic Book Clubs, and we had so much fun putting together some additional resources to help you get the most out of the story with students:


• Take a brain break with the Book Boys as they perform a song inspired by the book about embracing your special qualities


• Get tips from first grade teacher Debrice Hill on how to use Tacky the Penguin with students to make predictions and more in Book Talks


• Read about how Helen Lester’s former student who inspired Tacky grew up to be a beloved school principal, and how illustrator Lynn Munsinger didn’t think she could draw penguins in exclusive Behind the Scenes interviews


• Download a free printable “I Am a Penguin!” activity to accompany the Book of the Week in Cooked Up from a Book


Everything we do at Scholastic Book Clubs is about helping teachers inspire their students to love reading. That’s why in addition to the $1 Book of the Week, we’ve created inflation-busting savings, exclusive author events, live read-aloud shows, and fun contests to get kids engaged and excited.


Wishing all of you—teachers, students, and families—a happy and healthy new year of reading!


Please feel free to reach out anytime at


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