Premise: A literate penguin receives a journal in the mail and goes out to find adventure. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to see anything of note to write in the journal. He strolls around the South Pole, even heading underwater, but he is oblivious to the exciting things happening around him, most of which put him in great peril. When he arrives home, he writes the only thing that comes to mind with the hopes that tomorrow will bring about the action he is seeking.
Themes: Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole is an adventure story, with the penguin protagonist searching everywhere for excitement only to be completely unaware of the very thing he is seeking. He is supposed to write down the things that happen in his journal, repeating the process the next day wherever he goes. It can teach someone to seek adventure but also to keep their eyes open when they do so.
This book also has a theme especially for writers to write regularly and to get in the habit of doing so even if nothing exciting happens or if they don’t really feel like it. The act of writing does not necessarily mean it will always be thrilling and it will more often than not be hard work.
Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole also encourages people not to give up if you fail at it the first time.
Pros: One of the things I noticed in Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole is that it has a good message for writers, that even though the penguin did not see anything he still made the effort to write something down. It encourages writers to write even when inspiration is lacking. I also noticed that even if nothing happens, the penguin is still ready to go out the next day to go in search of something interesting, and to keep up with the routine of writing daily. The story is somewhat whimsical and circular, with a drawing at the end of the penguin’s entire journey that I thought was fun. I like that it encourages people to try something again even after failure.
Cons: The adventure seeking plot is pretty basic, but how it gets there didn’t make much sense to me. I am all for random people sending me journals and notebooks (preferably Moleskine), but we know nothing about where the journal comes from. It isn’t addressed personally to the penguin, but instead To: A Reader. This doesn’t matter much since we get no names for any characters. The art seems a little dated and rough, which makes sense since this was written right after the Berenstains’ first book. It was then shelved after the Berenstain Bears series took off. Even more of a con than the rough art, however, is the perilous and violent thread throughout the book. Not only is everything trying to kill the penguin, but the penguin even talks about punching something in the eye.
Recommendations: Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole is a fun quick romp through a snowy landscape filled with peril. It encourages creativity and perseverance. I would consider the violence when reading this to a child, perhaps even waiting until they are a little older: maybe first or second grade, at which point they should be able to read it for themselves anyway. Even though the art is a little rough, it is still nice and clear and playful. This is a must have for any Berenstain Bears collectors and a not a bad choice for children to teach them some good life lessons.