Ella and Penguin Stick Together

Maybe it’s because my own kids had glow-in-the-dark space stickers (that, honestly, I think impressed me more than them).

glow stars

Maybe it’s because I like penguins. (Who doesn’t?)


Wait. I think the real reason I’m loving Ella and Penguin Stick Together, by debut author Megan Maynor (with darling illustrations by Rosaline Bonnet), is because it taps into a mostly-universal childhood phobia:  fear of the dark.

Ella:Penguin cover

From the title page:  Ella and Penguin want to see her new stickers glow in the dark, but neither of them wants to go into a dark place.

Can’t say I blame them. I remember, as a kid, being terrified of our basement. It wasn’t creepy or old. But one narrow side of it, the unfinished “utilities” side, spooked me big-time. If I had to go down there at night, you wouldn’t believe how fast I could fly out of there after pulling the string that plunged the room back into cave mode. Tripping up the steps and skinning a shin? Not a problem! At least nothing had gotten me. (Okay, yes. Looking back, perhaps I watched one too many late-night episodes of Creature Feature. Anyway….)

Maynor had me from the get go. She plops a reader right down into a totally believable friendship dynamic. Ella has stickers to show Penguin. Yay! Penguin’s so excited! Until Ella reveals that these aren’t just any old stickers. These are glow-in-the-dark stickers! Penguin’s initial enthusiasm immediately melts away. “The dark is so … dark.”

Ever-supportive Ella suggests they try a few less-dark places to view the stickers. Those are so cute and, again, child-centric and realistic. But I won’t give them away here.

Eventually, the friends realize they’ll have to conquer their fear of the dark in order to truly enjoy the stickers. They do that in just-right increments. First decision? They’ll step into the closet, but they’ll only close the door partway. I really didn’t get that Ella was also afraid of the dark until Maynor used this line:  Ella baby-stepped into the closet.

Don’t you love that? So much emotion revealed in that one little sentence.

Things aren’t resolved quickly. What follows is, in my opinion, the perfect number of fits and starts and reassurances – and even a run in with something scary – before, at last, the brave friends are totally in the dark, facing their fear together. Only then can they appreciate the wonder of the stickers – well, if Penguin will open his eyes.

The ending? That’s perfection, too. But I’m not giving it away. You’ll have to run out and get your hands on this one.

You can read interviews with Megan Maynor here and here.
Happy reading!


P.S.  My last post introduced my newest book, Teeny Tiny Toady and interviewed its illustrator, Keika Yamaguchi. Winner of a free copy in my giveaway was Kathy Doherty. Yay, Kathy! Thanks to everybody who entered.

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2024: Parrotfish Has a Superpower and Bird Girl: Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature with the World. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at http://jillesbaum.com.


  1. Ella and Penguin Stick Together sounds like the perfect picture book. Not only is the subject matter so relatable for children, it sounds like Ms. Maynor has written it just as a pb should be written: She introduced the problem immediately and in a way children will wonder how the main character solves it, she uses “baby steps” as she solves the problem, and the two friends solve the problem together. – without the help of an adult.
    Congratulations to Ms. Maynor!!

  2. Jill, I think Ella and Nadine could be best of buddies if they ever met!

    Lovely review.

  3. Can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh, those glow-in-the-dark ceiling stickers bring back so many memories! Thanks, Jill. Look forward to reading this!

  5. Still not a fan of the dark. 🙂 Betting I’d love the book.

  6. This book sounds delightful. I shall have to go look for it. Thanks!

  7. This is one of my favorite recent picture books. Love it!

  8. I’ve been waiting to read this one for awhile–thanks, Jill!

  9. Kathy Mazurowski

    Thank you, I just es added to my list.

  10. I’m sitting on the couch over here in Indiana with TEENY TINY TOADY next to me! Thanks, Jill! And thanks for introducing us to ELLA AND PENGUIN. It sounds delightful.

  11. Sounds so cute! (And my 13yo still has those stickers on his ceiling, aww.) Adorable cover!

    • It’s TOUGH to pull those stickers off, Jennifer. I felt like I was conceding that childhood was over. *sob* 🙂

  12. I cannot wait to read it. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Cute one! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Hmmmmm, I still run up the basement stairs! Thanks for sharing this, Jill!

  15. I’m so glad you shared this book. 🙂

  16. Sounds like a great book. When we visit family in California, we stay with my brother in law, in my niece’s bedroom — decorated with glow in the dark stars. She now lives elsewhere, with her husband and baby, but the stars remain. I should buy this book for them!

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