Thursday, June 27, 2019

Chilly da Vinci by Jarrett Rutland

Synopsis (via Goodreads): While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet!

When Chilly's latest invention, the Good Bird crashes into the penguins' home iceberg, it separates a chunk of ice and sends the penguins drifting out to sea. Can Chilly invent a machine to get them home before a hungry orca nibbles the ice away?

The book includes an author’s note about the Leonardo da Vinci and the inventor's early failures.


Chilly da Vinci was not at all what I was expecting, and if there was any correlation between him and Leonardo da Vinci, it wasn't obvious. We start the book with Chilly's inventions breaking apart and sinking into the ocean, which is terrible for the creatures that live there. One, there's pollution. Two, any of those parts could end up killing an animal, or making their existence extremely painful. Also, you have to suspend all belief, because where is Chilly getting all of these parts in the first place? They're stranded on an iceberg, yet he manages to build giant, non-working machines. 

Chilly also talks down about himself, saying his "brain is full of seawater", and his sketchbook is "full of goof-ups". I want the characters in children's books to have confidence, so they're setting a good example for the spongey minds reading them. It's okay for characters to feel flawed and inadequate, if that's what the story is focusing on, but Chilly just had a negative personality. He doesn't get encouragement from his friends, or think positively about himself when something does work out.

Chilly's terminology for things made very little sense, and confusing language isn't something you want in a children's book. Additionally, the wording was weird, and the story felt jagged and disorganized. The imagery was also confusing. I think at times we were supposed to be seeing what Chilly was imagining, and not what was happening in reality. People were wanting his autograph at one point, although I'm not sure why, or what it had to do with the story. Maybe because he hoped to be a famous inventor? Honestly, I have no idea. Chilly's goals and aspirations were unclear, and his character left a lot to be desired.

Someone named Vinnie is throwing things and Chilly and being a bully, but again... where are all these things coming from? I wish the other penguins would have been discussed more, and that the bullying would have been addressed. Instead, Chilly thinks about leaving Vinnie behind when they make their escape, which is not what you want to teach a child. I wish the main character had been more compassionate and included the other penguins that were trapped with him. (Side note: He does take Vinnie with them, but only because Vinnie offered something in exchange. Fritters, I think. We should be teaching children to show kindness regardless of what the other person has done, and that they shouldn't need to be bribed into doing the right thing.)

"Note: I am terrible at thinking. I should do it less." Seriously? We should want to encourage more thinking, not less. The humor wasn't humorous, and the story wasn't environmentally friendly. "I'll use leather for the wings so they won't tear. And I'll use bones." An animal is wanting to use another animal's skin for his project? It felt wrong. Also, Chilly said he doesn't eat fish, only kelp, so I'm assuming he's a vegetarian...but one that has no qualms about using other aspects of animals for his inventions. It just didn't make sense.

Chilly da Vinci was a random assortment of nonsense that left me feeling frustrated and annoyed. Chilly's failed projects polluted the water near his home, so I'm sure that will impact the food supply his family and friends need to survive. There is no character development, and Chilly seems very judgmental of those around him. I dislike how negative he was in general, especially about himself, and believe that sets a bad example for children. They're in danger the entire book, but I never felt a sense of urgency. I would not recommend this book for children, and I'm glad I decided to read it on my own before sharing it with my kids.

I originally received this book from NetGalley, but the formatting was too difficult to read on my iPad. I stumbled across this book at a store, and decided to give it a shot. My thoughts and opinions are my own.


  1. It sounds confusing. I wouldn't think this would be good for kids.

    1. It was a really frustrating read for me as an adult, so I wouldn't read it to my kids. I liked the concept, a book about Leonardo da Vinci, but it didn't work.


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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless