Oberlin Blogs

Tacky the Penguin and Other Stories

August 11, 2010

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

In college, we sometimes need to be reminded of happier times, especially when we're neck-deep in papers and reading, especially if you're holed up in the library. With the creation of the academic commons and Azariah's cafe right after my sophomore year, I started spending time in Mudd library, studying, taking notes, and writing papers. With all these thought-heavy activities, sometimes I needed mental breaks, usually doing activities not involved with my computer (my favorite breaks involved spinning poi outside in freezing weather with Daniel, or having contact juggling talks with Amanda). I discovered a new favorite brain-break activity during the semester that it was least relevant to me: reading children's books to my friends.

During a busy first month of my last year at Oberlin, I was in my last semester as a full-time student, and like all good full-time students, I was enrolled in an ExCo. I already told you about the glory of my last ExCo, The Picture Book ExCo, a small class of three and the instructor Ardea.

For our first class, we talked about our favorite picture books, and Ardea encouraged us to bring them to class the following week. Enter: my favorite children's book, actually, a family favorite... Tacky the Penguin.

Tacky the Penguin is a truly Oberlin story. Tacky has five brothers, but Tacky is a very odd bird. He likes to wear Hawaiian print shirts while his brothers wear bow ties, he sings off-key and in a silly manner, and marches to the beat of his own drum instead of in a straight line. When hunters arrive to capture the penguins, Tacky saves his brothers by scaring away the hunters with his quirkiness, and the penguins realize that even though he's odd, Tacky is a good bird to have around.

So, you can see why both my brother and I decided to go to Oberlin. We embraced weird and wonderful when we were young. Also, Ben's obsessed with penguins. He wanted to be a bird when he grew up. As a result, we have several amazing children's books themed around birds and penguins.

With this Oberlin story (with penguins!) in my possession, I had to share it with everyone. I put out an all-call on Twitter and Facebook whenever I was sitting in the library working and knew that people needed a distraction (yes, I am an enabler). I very much love reading books out loud, especially to big kids who haven't had their childhood memories tapped in a long time. I take after my dad when reading this book: I have different voices for each character, and the three sections that mention songs are always sung in an appropriate manner (Tacky's favorite song is sung horrendously off-key and all over the vocal range).

I had several takers on the childhood stories distraction front. Rusty dropped by Azariah's from his study lounge from doing honors research one afternoon. My housemate Melissa asked me to surprise her study buddy on the second floor with a dramatic reading. I pounced Aries and Red during a conversation, and hijacked it with Tacky. Greg and I even had a book exchange; I read him Tacky the Penguin, and he read me Gregory the Terrible Eater, one of his favorite books. After the short break and return to childhood, each of us could head back to our assignments with a lighter heart.

I plan on wandering the library with books again this year. I don't have papers or exams (I'm not gloating, guys, I have a full-time job during the hours you get to lazily sleep in during weekdays and my puny no-longer-a-college-student body has the insatiable urge to go to bed around midnight), so I want to give my friends a short mental break during their stressful times. I will happily take recommendations of favorite picture books, and I'll come to your locale and read to you... but only if it's before my bedtime.

Sidenote: I was in Azariah's a few weeks ago, and discovered that there is a copy of Calvin and Hobbes that is stamped with a "please don't remove" label. Mudd library: supplying college students with their childhood pleasures during the best of times and the worst of times. Good call!

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