Meet Your New Feathered Friends: Penguins with People Problems


We get excited about every author event we have here at Parnassus, of course, but there’s something extra special about a book launch for a member of the family. Next Monday, June 1, we’ll celebrate the published debut of the little critters we’ve been crushing on for quite a while now: Penguins with People Problems, created by our own Mary Laura Philpott.

The quirky little book grew out of Philpott’s Tumblr site, “The Random Penguins,” which she started after the merger of Penguin Books and Random House. Stuck on the idea that “Random Penguin” would make a great name for the new company (alas, they went with Penguin Random House), Philpott started doodling penguins doing random things like going to work, dining out, putting on makeup — things penguins don’t do, people do. Fittingly, Penguin Random House got wind of the project, adored it, and has turned it into an illustrated book for grownups (think The Far Side or The Oatmeal).

Penguins 3dWe couldn’t be happier that the penguins will hold their sneak-preview book party right here the evening before the book is officially available to the public. Tumblr is sponsoring the party, so there will be plenty of perks, freebies, and cocktails (with mixology help provided by our kind friends at The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills). Can you make it? RSVP here!

Meanwhile, here are a few special penguins Philpott created in honor of some of our author friends (Penguins with Author Problems… sequel??) along with her comments.

* * *

Well, we have to start with Ann Patchett, right? This is Ann wearing this green woolen cape thing she has that I love, and there's Sparky. If you were to zoom in really tight, you'd see that his tag says
“Well, we have to start with Ann Patchett, right? This is Ann wearing a green woolen cape thing she has that always looks fabulous on her, and there’s Sparky. If you were to zoom in really tight, you’d see that his tag says ‘SPARKY VAN DEVENDER.'”
“I did one of Karen, too. She’s an amazing photographer, but I always tease her about the crazy filters and effects she puts on her photos and videos.”
“This is the one and only Emma Straub, taking her book The Vacationers on vacation. She’s such a ray of sunshine and so smart. She’s also the one who introduced me to Almost Famous Women author Megan Mayhew Bergman, which — actually, Megan, if you’re reading this, I owe you a Megan-penguin.”
“Our interview with David Sedaris is still the most widely-shared piece we’ve ever done on Musing. It was a real thrill to present him with his penguin when I met with him earlier this year. This is a depiction of David picking up trash and wearing his FitBit in his neighborhood in England.”
“This probably looks really weird unless you know the book it’s referencing. I made this for Claire Cameron, who wrote the fabulous novel The Bear — which I was afraid to read and then loved. In the story, two little kids climb into a Coleman cooler to hide when a bear attacks their family campsite. This is a penguin version of that scenario.”
“We all wanted to high-five Roxane Gay after she wrote the brilliant/hilarious Bad Feminist, so I had to make this. Hopefully, we’ll get her to Nashville sometime so we can high-five her in person.”
“You know when you talk to someone you’ve never met, but you just get their sense of humor so much and they’re so smart and you wish you could hang out for another hour? That’s how I felt talking to Megan Amram on the phone. She’s a comedic genius.”
“Sticking with the ‘comedic genius’ theme… There is no one — absolutely nobody — on earth like Allie Brosh. I’ve never laughed as hard at anything as I have at some of her Hyperbole and a Half pieces. This is a reference to one she wrote about how in her mind she can dance like Beyoncé but in reality, not so much.”
“More comedy: This is Mallory Ortberg, co-editor of The Toast and author of Texts from Jane Eyre. If you don’t have this book, please get a copy. And then go read every single thing she has written on The Toast. You’re welcome.”
“Most people know Elizabeth McCracken as a writer of gorgeous fiction and spectacular narrative nonfiction, but you also need to know she’s hilarious on Twitter. I would read a whole book of her tweets if there were one.”
“True story: I made this picture of Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) wearing a big taxidermied animal cape of some sort — kind of a cross between a bear and a raccoon and a giant squirrel — and the VERY NEXT DAY she unveiled the cover of her next book, Furiously Happy. Look at that animal! So of course before I sent her the image, I amended it to show her holding her book.”
“This is Lily King, author of Euphoria. Lily sat next to me on a panel at the Southern Festival of Books last year. At one point, she pulled her writing notebook out of her bag and showed everyone how she plots her fiction in teeny-tiny writing on this enormous fold-out page. It was a riot. And she’s coming to the store on June 17! I am insanely grateful to Lily for writing a little blurb for the penguin book and calling it ‘thoroughly random and absolutely hilarious.’ That was so sweet.”
“Here’s Glennon! I just love Glennon Melton. She wrote Carry On, Warrior, which I like to give out to people whenever they’re going through a hard time. She tells a hilarious story about being at a mall food court with her kids and watching some other mom feeding her baby a super-healthy lunch. Glennon said it made her feel inadequate, like the other mom was feeding her baby avocado AT Glennon. I totally get that.”
“This is Matthew Quick. I feel like I really nailed his glasses here, right? His books — and his writing, and his mind, for that matter — are unlike anyone else’s. I was excited to choose his next one, Love May Fail, as a summer pick for our First Editions Club. I’m so happy he’s coming back to Nashville on June 19.”
“Jill Alexander Essbaum recently visited to sign Hausfrau, and we all had a blast with her. She told us about the symbolism and easter eggs hidden in the cover image.”
“One of the blurbs for the book is from Ann Imig, editor of the Listen to Your Mother collection, who said Penguins with People Problems is ‘like Sandra Boynton for grownups.’ That’s an enormously kind thing to say, first of all, but also a touching comparison. We love Boyton books at Parnassus, and I read them to my kids when they were babies. So I drew one of my penguins talking to one of Boynton’s penguins and asking to be friends.”
“This is for the hilarious Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation), in honor of his new book, Gumption.”
“Every time I start to feel like I’m really busy, I think, well, I’m not nearly as busy as Mindy Kaling. She’s such a powerhouse, and she works so hard. This is her with her last book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? She has another one coming soon called Why Not Me? I love how outspoken she is. Mindy should be queen of America.”
“This is Matt Damon. Why? Because. Actually, although this image isn’t in the book, it’s referencing something about the book. You’ll have to read it to find out.”

Want more? Don’t miss Philpott’s interview with our friends at Chapter16! And if you’d like to see another little custom set of penguins, you might enjoy the six-part New York Times exclusive mini-series that’s running on the NYT Motherlode column — “Penguins with Parent Problems.”

* * *

Join us Monday evening, June 1, for the sneak-preview launch party for Penguins with People Problems(RSVP by clicking here.)

ISBN-13: 9780399173097
Availability: Coming Soon – Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Perigee Books, 6/2015