Breaking the Ice
If Mumble, Gloria and the rest of the "Happy Feet" colony got you dreaming of being a penguin, it's time to wake up and introduce yourself to Club Penguin.
As a member of this growing online club for kids ages 8 to 14, you choose a name for your penguin-self and a color, if you like, because in the digital world not all penguins have to be black and white.
Then you can waddle around, party, play games and chat -- instant-message style -- with other penguins in a snow-blanketed virtual cartoon world. There's a ski slope, a boat dock, shops, a beach and many other places to explore.
Marching 12 Million Strong
Club Penguin has 12 million members -- that's about one penguin for each person in Maryland and Virginia. Joining http:/
Penguins live in igloos that start out pretty plain but can be upgraded by spending some of the virtual coins they earn by playing games. If your penguin is into fashion, there are lots of outfits to buy.
Carlo Gatti, 9, a fifth-grader at Oyster-Adams Elementary in Washington, joined Club Penguin two years ago, not long after it started. By his count, his penguin has earned -- and spent -- thousands of coins.
"I spent it on a lot of clothes for my penguin, and I upgraded my igloo," he said. "I turned it into a two-floored igloo, and then I turned it into a snow globe!"
Carlo's mom limits his club time. On odd days of the month, he can sign on for 30 minutes; on even days, he's allowed one hour. Carlos said these are rules he can live with.
And Now a Word From a Mom