it’s good to be tacky

Positively Penguins Day?? OK, I’m good with celebrating penguins. They are adorable, besides being about the toughest creatures I know, what with standing around in hurricane winds, subzero temps, and total darkness for months on end. You’ve got to give them a great deal of credit for doing something only the insane guys from Myth Busters might also do.

But, I wondered, exactly how do I celebrate this day? Then I remembered my absolutely favorite young children’s book, Tacky the Penguin. Did my oldest child’s first grade teacher know when she gave her this book she could give it to no personality more fitted? If you have or know kids who like to be themselves, you must have the Tacky books. Tacky doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t sing on key, can’t march, and wears horrid Hawaiian shirts rather than stiff bow ties. He is a totally delightful misfit in the penguin world. The other penguins look more than a little askance at Tacky. The perfect penguins, however, come to value the imperfect among them, even if they don’t quite “get” him. Tacky, they finally agree by the time he saves their freezing butts, “is an odd bird, but a nice bird to have around.”

That’s what my kids sometimes say about me. And to me, it’s high praise to be compared to my avian hero.

Tips on celebrating Positively Penguins Day:

–Watch Happy Feet. Close runners up: Mary Poppins and March of the Penguins.

–Waddle everywhere. This does not count if you are eight months pregnant.

–Wear black and white.

–Eat ice cream. It beats raw herring.

–Wonder how you got the lousy deal of labor and delivery while lady penguins just pop those eggs out and hand them over to dad to deal with while they go have a girls’ night out. And it’s a long night in Antarctica.

–Because of this, celebrate Positively Penguins Day by leaving those kids with dad and going out. It’s only fair. Eat baked Alaska. (Yeah, wrong hemisphere, but close enough in concept. Besides, better than herring.)

–Go build a snow fort.

–Get all the Tacky the Penguin books from the library and read them out loud, if only to yourself.

–Eat anything with iceberg lettuce. Still better than herring.

–Go to the zoo and watch penguins. Start talking to them. Act like you are performing an elaborate ritual with them. If people look at you like you’re an odd bird, remember Tacky.

–Learn some little known facts about penguins, like these found (mostly) at: http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/wildlife/antarctic_penguins.htm.

–Emperor penguins are the largest of penguin species with an average weight of around 66 pounds and a height of approximately 3.8ft. You will not, by the way, confuse them with King penguins because, “while king penguins are a sub-Antarctic species, being based on islands dotted around the continent, emperor penguins are animals of the deep south.” Remember that, next time you are in Antarctica.

–An new emperor penguin chick left alone on the ice has a survival time of only around two minutes. Chicks have only a 19 percent survival rate in general.

–Black coloring above and white beneath make penguins harder to see in the water and easier to heat on the land. It also makes for a heck of a masquerade costume.

–The name is derived from Welsh terms ‘pen,’ meaning head and ‘gwyn,’ meaning white.

–The penguin is an unofficial symbol of the United States Libertarian Party.

–Penguins can walk faster than humans. So never try to outrun one who wants to mug you on the street. Just hand over the wallet quietly. Or the fish on your pocket.

–There are seventeen species of penguin, and only four really live and nest on the Antarctic continent. One even lives in the Galapagos Islands. Most hang on islands in the south, which is what most people want to do too, right? Well, maybe our ideas of perfect beaches are slightly different. But it proves we have something in common with penguins besides a penchant for dressing in black.

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