By Phoebe Vreeland, The Children’s Book Review
Published: January 18, 2010
By Pam Muñoz Ryan (Author), Edwin Fotheringham (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 3-6
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (January 1, 2011)
Tony Baloney doesn’t mean to cause trouble. But what is a boy to do when smack in the middle of a brood of girls? The Baloneys are penguins, Macaroni Penguins, to be exact. Illustrator Edwin Fotheringham has brought the family to life with distinctive character. Momma stands ready with a dustpan under one wing and a briefcase at her heels. Poppa wears the apron and carries a broom. With linked wings, they look like a unified pair. Big Sister is equal parts ballerina, beauty pageant contestant and fairy princess and the Bothersome Babies sport nothing more than drool-covered pacifiers and diapers. Worried about getting lost in this colorful crowd, Tony distinguishes himself with his stuffed animal buddy Dandelion, his love of Parmesan cheese and his penchant for anything with wheels.
As in most families, there is a pecking order and Tony is at the mercy of Big Sister who with “The Look” rules as “Boss of the World.” Tony does his best at playing kitty, but Big Sister’s tea parties and the exasperating antics of his younger twins can only be endured for so long. Then Tony, or is it Dandelion—runs amok on the skateboard leaving a trail of broken household objects, Parmesan cheese and tread marks that lead to his hidey-hole. Here comes the best illustration in the book: Tony clutching Dandelion in the safety of his hide-out—a cardboard box—while a silhouette of Momma and Poppa arms akimbo looms in the curtain door. After a chat with his parents, Tony and Dandelion spend time reflecting and sorting out their feelings. His parents have asked for a sincere apology and Tony is grappling with their request.
Next comes one of the most valuable lines in the book: “I am not feeling nicely in my heart”—delivered of course by Dandelion. Ryan accurately captures a child’s exaggerated sense of time and after “maybe a year—maybe twenty minutes,” Tony is ready to rejoin the family. Perhaps, it is just the aroma of fish tacos that eventually lures the little guy out. Armed with a peace offering of Parmesan cheese, Tony—I mean, Dandelion—apologizes to Big Sister. Relieved of his usual duty of playing the kitty, Tony gets to be “Boss of the World” and the twins prove to be pretty good at meowing. But this new found position doesn’t last for long. Ultimately, Big Sister gets the better of him and manages to keep him in place in the pecking order with Ryan’s fun twist on the final page.
Edwin Fotheringham’s digital art is delightful. The black and white penguins are balanced by vibrant primary colors and clean graphics. The colorful theme is reinforced with Twister-esque spotted end papers. Tony Baloney is an entertaining look at sibling dynamics and would please John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) with its clear demonstration of how beneficial “retreating to the cave” is for stressed out males. Bonus: Children will add colorful words to their vocabulary such as “exasperate,” “run amok” and “woes.”
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