I’m always telling my daughter she’s a lucky duck.
“You’re a lucky duck! You get to go to the park!”
“You lucky duck, you. You got a pink jelly bean!”
And she says things like, “I’m a lucky duck! I’m going to Ellie’s house!”
We were both lucky ducks the day we brought home Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter (Orchard Books, 2013).
The full title reads: A True Rescue Story: Lucky Ducklings, and Moore writes a short introduction on the first page explaining that what happens in the book happened in real life, in the year 2000, in the town of Montauk, New York.
What happened is this:
“The Duck family lived in a pretty pond in a green, green park, in a sunlit little town at the end of a long, long island./ Early one morning, Mama Duck swam to shore. She hopped out onto the grass. Right behind her came Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin…and last of all…Little Joe.”
The Duck family walked out of the park and into the town, stopping for “…a bite to eat” (at which point my daughter interrupts me and says, “No, it wasn’t a bite to eat! It was garbage!” It’s true. The Duck family is nibbling away at bits of hot dog and baked pretzel with mustard that have fallen out of overflowing trash bin.
In the upper right hand corner of this spread the illustration foreshadows the doom…a storm drain with slats too wide for little ducklings’ little feet.
And sure enough, on the next two spreads we watch Mama Duck’s big webbed toes carry her safely across the drain while Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin and last of all Little Joe fall headfirst (illustrated by a series of five separate panels on one spread) into the storm drain.
We are introduced to the refrain: “That could have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t because…”
The rescue mission begins. A woman calls for help. The fire department arrives. “A man named Perry” lends a hand and his truck, and finally, the ducklings are safe, back with their Mama.
I first learned about this book from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog where I learn about many great books. But of all the books I’ve pursued recently from one recommending source or another, this one is by far, the best. It is the book this Spring, at least in our house.
The language is simple and yet lyrical.
The plot is suspenseful and exposes my daughter to a more intense conflict than the conflicts in most of her picture books (well, I suppose Treena almost getting eaten in Dooly is intense to an almost-three-year-old), but what happens to these adorable ducklings with their adorable names is real.
During our very first read my daughter said, “I want to hold them,” and tried to scoop them gently off the page…and so she is…
worried, really worried for their safety while they are down in the drain and so incredibly relieved when the ducklings are rescued (although I’ll be honest, she is also busy pointing out that one of the bystanders during the rescue is wearing Crocs, her favorite shoe).
Nancy Carpenter’s illustrations are of the “I-want-to-make-posters-of-ever-page-of-your-book-Erin-Stead-style-of-my-dreams.” They are beyond beautiful, and include perspectives that make us pause, and look deeper, and talk about what we see.
For example, after the baby ducklings fall down the drain there is a page from their view as they look up and out through he storm drain at the worried faces of the people who have come to check out the “ruckus below.”
And there is another page where we have to look at the picture at the right angle under the right light in order to even see the rings of water surrounding five little duckling silhouettes way down at the bottom of the drain.
And the Mama Duck? What a character! I should have known from her knowing stare aimed directly at me from the cover of the book. Sure, a little foresight on her part might have prevented this disaster, but the way she fights for the safety of her babies (as told so powerfully though text and art) hits every Mama reading the book right in the heart, and hard.
Lucky Ducklings has absolutely become one of the books that we can’t live without. We’ve given it as a birthday present. We’ve read it over breakfast, at bedtime, on our tummies, on the couch, in the car…
At least two-three times a day I hear, “Read Lucky Ducklings again, Mommy!”
“Whack-a-whack! [I] [call] to [my] brood. ‘Follow me!'” We head to the bookshelf, grab our new favorite book, and read. Lucky ducks, are we.
I would like to dedicate this post to our friends Jake, Meaghan, Xan, and their ducks. I think of you when I read this book.