Duck’s Vacation by Gilad Soffer (InfoSoup)
Duck is out on the beach having a relaxing vacation when suddenly, you arrive. And you turn the page! Duck is frustrated because he is on vacation and doesn’t want any kind of bother to happen. And you keep turning pages! As the pages turn, some bad things do start to happen from a bird pooping on Duck’s head to a crab pinching his toes. Then people start to arrive and the beach gets very crowded. It starts to rain and Duck says that it can’t get worse, but it certainly can. There could be snow! Or maybe pirates! Are you willing to stop turning the pages and not find out what happens next?
Originally published in Hebrew, this is a book that will have young readers and listeners giggling as the pages are turned. Duck is such a grumpy thing from the moment the first page is turned. Of course this is a trope used in one of my favorite childhood books, The Monster at the End of This Book. The reaction of characters to a reader turning pages really works well. The reader controls the pace of the reaction, and can delight in causing things to happen in a static book. It is also a set up that works really well read aloud.
Soffer’s illustrations play up the humor to top effect. The crowds of people who swarm the beach almost obscure Duck, the snow turns his bill blue, and the pirates, well he’s not cold anymore! Duck also has a range of emotions that he can display thanks to his expressive eyebrows that are sure to be in some sort of grimace.
Funny and a great choice to share with a preschool group. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.
Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson (InfoSoup)
Bear doesn’t want to be a bear anymore. He’s sick of sleeping during the winter, his fur is too hot in the summer, and there are all of those angry bees. Then Bear notices a family of ducks walking along and decides that he could be a duck instead! So he joins their line and starts acting like a duck. But when the adult duck notices Bear in the line of ducklings, he gets sent away. Bear does get a book on how to be the perfect duck. So he starts to work on it. The first step is building a nest and sitting on an egg. But Bear loses his egg in the twigs. Second step is swimming, but Bear splashes too much. The third step is flying, ouch! Bear is thoroughly discouraged and climbs up a tree to hide. From there, he starts to show both himself and Duck the good things about being a bear after all.
This is Hudson’s first book. It has a great freshness to it and an exceptionally light touch. The humor in the book feels unforced and natural. In the middle of the book there is a change to the format focusing on the rules of being a duck, which creates its own pacing and energy. The ending feels organic and real as both Duck and Bear together discover the joy of climbing trees and sharing a treat with a new friend.
Hudson’s illustrations are ink and watercolor which combine into friendly images of flowering meadows, furry bears and swimming ducks. They have the fine details of ink and then the washes of watercolor paint. Hudson enjoys the visual humor of Bear in the line of ducklings and then other times creates touching moments where you can see the characters forming new bonds.
This is the second picture book about bears and ducks trying to live together that has been released this year. Pair it with Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin for a double duck and bear treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin (In InfoSoup)
Bear visited the Duck family one spring and then never left. He fit in perfectly in many ways, except for their house which was not designed for someone Bear’s size. So Bear set off in search of a perfect space for all of them. But it was hard to find a place that worked. Places that fit Bear perfectly did not work for the Ducks. Where the Ducks were happy, Bear was not. Then Bear thought that maybe it was because HE did not fit in with the Ducks after all, so he went away to find a home just for him. The Ducks missed Bear horribly, and Bear missed the Ducks. Finally, Bear found just the right huge cave for himself and then came up with a clever Duck-sized solution that would let them all live together happily.
This picture book is about families and what makes a family. Told from the point of view of animals, it speaks beyond cultures and skin color to a feeling where differences in general are embraced and honored. At the same time, the book honors the feeling a person can have of fitting in just fine sometimes and in other situations feeling that they are an outsider. These complex feelings are caught on the page without over dramatizing them. The result is a book the embraces adoptive and blended families of all sorts without making the picture too rosy and uncomplicated.
Gavin’s illustrations are done with a whimsical sense of humor. From Bear trying to fit into a tiny and tippy Duck boat as a home to the unhappy Ducks sitting around the table forlornly missing Bear, she captures emotions clearly on the page as well as the dilemmas of differences. The illustrations are softly painted with fine ink lines that allow both the big bear and small ducks to have personality galore.
A winning read that speaks to all families and particularly adoptive and blended families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Goodnight, Already! by Jory John and Benji Davies
Bear is so very tired, all he wants to do is go to sleep. But his next door neighbor, Duck, feels exactly the opposite and has never felt more awake as he reads a book on staying awake and drinks a pot of coffee. As Bear climbs into bed and pulls up his blanket, ready to snooze, Duck comes over for a visit. Duck offers all sorts of ideas of what they could do together, but all Bear wants to do is sleep. Just when Bear is again about to fall asleep, Duck returns with a new idea to bake something. But Bear once again sends him on his way. When Duck comes in for a third time, Bear has had enough! The evening though has time for one final ironic twist by the end of the book, one that will get readers giggling.
John captures both the very essence of being tired and wanting nothing more than to sleep and the zany energy that comes with insomnia. It is that dynamic being thrust together in this picture book that leads to the hilarity. It also helps that John has impeccable comic timing throughout the book, using repeating themes to really make the scenes pop. The pace switches from one character to the next beautifully, the dozy slow of Bear and the yapping zing of Duck.
Davies’ illustrations capture the same shifts in energy and pace. Duck’s entire home is bright yellow while Bear is surrounded by sleepy blues. The silly additions of coffee and a book to stay awake make the situation even funnier. The illustrations are deceptively simple, making this a very approachable book for children, one that conveys its humor right from the cover.
Perfect for kids who both love bedtime and hate it, as well as for their sleepy parents. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Swim, Duck, Swim! by Susan Lurie, illustrated by Murray Head
Told in rhyme, this picture book illustrated with large photographs explores one day in the life of a duckling who just won’t get into the water. His parents are with him, encouraging him to try and so are all of the other fuzzy ducklings that are already swimming around. But he is not sure that swimming is for him. He might sink! He hates to be wet! And this might just be the perfect time for a nap. But with his parents encouraging him to keep on trying, there is suddenly a splash and he is swimming around merry and proud.
Lurie’s rhymes have just the right amount of bounce and energy. She captures the obstinate toddler who just won’t do what his parents are pushing him to try. Children and parents alike will relate to this battle of wills where patient and positive parenting wins out in the end. The text is simple and jaunty, keeping the duckling clearly an animal but giving words and emotions to his actions.
I’m a huge fan of photographs in children’s picture books. Particularly when they are done as beautifully as Head’s. The large format of all of the illustrations works beautifully, and I appreciate that they run all the way to the edge of the page rather than being framed in white. The effect is an expansive one, these are pictures that pull you in until you too are pond-side and cheering on the duckling.
A great pick for kids heading to their first swimming lessons, this book would also make a nice addition to story times on ducks or trying something new. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na
A duck takes readers on a tour of different sorts of animal babies. The duck heads around the world, visiting baby lions, baby lizards, baby polar bears, and baby kangaroos among many others. A trait of each baby is mentioned to distinguish them. Baby zebras walk right away. Fish are born with lots of brothers and sisters. Seahorse fathers carry their babies in a pouch. These small details add up to a kaleidoscope of different animals and offer lots of opportunities for parents to talk more about each animals as they share the book.
This author of The Book of Sleep always fills her books with rich illustrations. Here her gentle poem carries the duck from one place to the next, but it is the illustrations that make this such a special gem. Done in mixed media, they feature a variety of textured papers that become ice bergs, tree trunks and even the sky. He manages to make colors that seem to emit light, glowing on the page.
Perfect for toddler bedtimes, this book is radiant with baby animals. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Based on a true story, this book follows the walk of a mother duck and her small ducklings. They follow her out of the pond, through the grass of the park, and into town. They ate a bite from the overflowing garbage can and then headed off the curb and over a storm drain. But while Mama Duck made it over the grate with no problems, her ducklings fell through one by one. It could have been a sad ending to the story, but it wasn’t! The people who saw it happened called for help. It took firemen and someone with a winch on their truck to save all of the ducklings.
Moore has created a story that has a real appeal. It is the story of tiny ducklings that at first seems very sweet, then takes a very dangerous turn. Throughout, she tells the readers that that could have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Using this device, she creates both drama and also the assurance that thing will be alright in the end. Her writing has repetition that makes it perfect for very young children. The environmental message is subtle but profound.
Carpenter’s ducks seem to be drawn with a nod to McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings. The book feels vintage with the small town coming together to save this small family of ducks. Carpenter celebrates both the natural setting and also the people themselves. Her use of separated images that form one larger image to name the little ducklings works particularly well.
Ideal for a duckling story time and perfect for spring, read this one alongside Make Way for Ducklings. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon
Theodora was a very busy duck. She exercised every day, she swam laps in the pond (with a teacup on her head), she ran her errands every afternoon, she rode her bike rather than flying, and in the evening she quietly watched the stars. She had the perfect life of routine and quiet until a strange duck moved in next door. Chad was not like Theodora. He was an artist who made sculptures out of found objects, he colored his feathers, and he liked dancing and swimming in a wild fashion. When fall came and the other ducks flew south, Theodora and Chad were the only two left. Over the winter, they became fast friends. But when someone implied that one of them as an “odd duck” the question became which of them they were talking about.
Castellucci beautifully tells the story of a duck who is obviously unique and then another duck who is unique as well. Readers will at first think that it is about accepting others who are different from you, but the author has something deeper in mind here. It’s about also accepting that you yourself are the odd duck. As we all know we are!
Varon’s illustrations have wonderful small touches. Make sure you check out the titles on her books, since they are good for an additional chuckle. Her characters are winning and cheery, both so very comfortable in their own skin.
Fun, buoyant and with plenty of depth, this children’s graphic novel should fly off the shelves just like a normal duck. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Duck has lost his new blue socks. He searches in his box, but they aren’t there. He asks his friend Fox who hasn’t seen them either. Perhaps Ox knows where his socks are? Ox remembers seeing some socks down by the rocks. But those socks are purple, not blue socks, and they aren’t new either. Finally, Duck asks a group of peacocks about his socks. And they do know where his socks are! It turns out they are in a most surprising place!
Bunting has written a picture book in rhyme that dances along to a jaunty beat. The rhymes are merrily done, done in a humorous way. She makes it all look so easy and effortless, but rhyming picture books are some of the most difficult to do well. Kudos to Bunting for maintaining the joy in simple rhymes. Her words read aloud well and are also simple enough for beginning readers to tackle.
Ruzzier’s illustrations are the key to young readers spotting the blue socks which are slowly revealed as the book progresses. Expect eagle-eyed children to figure out the answer even before the adults. Ruzzier fills Duck’s world with lots of clutter from starfish to soccer balls to underwear. Done in ink and watercolor, the colors are bright and add to the surreal nature of the story itself.
Socks lost and then found, rhymes and rhythms, and a delight of a read aloud to share, this book has it all! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay
Lulu loves animals, so she can’t understand it when people don’t love every animal, like her teacher Mrs. Holiday. In fact, Mrs. Holiday has asked Lulu to never bring an animal to school again after an incident with her dog. When their class is heading back through the park after swimming, something awful happens. Two dogs run rampage through the ducks’ nests in the park, scaring the ducks, ruining their nests and smashing eggs. So when Lulu sees the duck egg rolling down the hill, she just does what comes naturally and puts it into her pocket. Once back at school though, it is hard to figure out how to hide an egg without smashing it. It becomes even harder when the duckling decides to hatch!
McKay is one of my favorite British authors, capturing the unique qualities of her characters with a distinct merriment. In this short novel perfect for beginning readers, she changes the perspective up sometimes by offering Mrs. Holiday’s point of view too. It is done with a lot of humor and children will easily make the transition between Lulu and her teacher.
The writing is simple but great fun to read. There are plenty of jokes and moments of seriousness too that both help keep the book moving forward. It is a trick to offer depth of story in such a brief book, but McKay manages it.
I look forward to the next Lulu book and the trouble that she gets into there. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.