There are some books best read at bedtime. Others in the morning, over breakfast. There are books for thunderstorms, books for sick days, books for reading on the porch in the spring or under a tree shedding its leaves in the fall.
And then there are books that should be read everywhere, all the time.
Which is where and how often we read David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike (Blue Sky Press, 2002).
I ordered our copy last fall during a Scholastic fundraising event at my daughter’s nursery school. We are a bit biased toward hardcovers, so this slim paperback didn’t get pulled off the shelf very often at first.
But eventually, the more it got read the more it got read.
And the more it got read.
Because what kid can resist:
- A duck
- A bike
- A duck on a bike
- PLUS every other farm animal you can think of for Old McDonald, painted in vibrant colors and in size XL
For example, Cow’s head takes up an entire page, and the cat an entire spread.
Imagine, that as readers, we have zoomed in our camera lenses all the way, so that we can see everything close up. This effect, combined with unique perspectives (for example, when Duck’s looming, XL front tire almost runs over Chicken, it feels like Chicken is going to squawk right out of the page and run into us) makes this book one of my very favorite to look at.
And of course, to read.
The language is incredibly simple, which makes it that much more funny.
It begins: “One day down on the farm, Duck got a wild idea. ‘I bet I could ride a bike!’ he thought. He waddled over to where the boy parked his bike, climbed on, and began to ride. At first he rode very slowly, and he wobbled a lot, but it was fun!”
“But it was fun!” I read with gusto, (and maybe a hint of sarcasm undetectable by toddlers). It is impossible not to take advantage of Shannon’s successful overuse of the exclamation point.
My three-year-old always stops me here and says, “Look! He can’t even reach the seat!” It’s true. Duck’s bum barely fits over the cross bar.
But that doesn’t stop him! Off he goes:
“Duck rode past Cow and waved to her. ‘Hello, Cow,’ said Duck. ‘M-o-o-o,’ said Cow. But what she thought was, ‘A duck on a bike? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen!’”
And so now, in addition to 1) a duck 2) a bike 3) a duck on a bike and 4) irresistible illustrations we have 5) ANIMAL SOUNDS!
And there are few things better than ANIMAL SOUNDS in a picture book.
Because Duck’s wing is up waving to Cow, my son waves, too. And he says, “Mooooooo!”
Good job, son. Good job! OK. He’s got Cow. Now if I could just get him to neigh!
But before Duck gets to Horse, he passes sheep, who “B-a-a-a[s]” and thinks, ‘He’s going to hurt himself if he’s not careful!’”
And Dog, who thinks Duck is the coolest.
And Cat, who thinks Duck is a dork. She meows, of course, “But what she thought was, ‘I wouldn’t waste my time riding a bike!’” and then continues to pretentiously lick her paws.
Parents now have their own list of reasons to love this book:
1) Aren’t we always saying one thing and thinking another? (“That is a great “A”, honey,” I said. But what I thought was, “Will her “A’s” ever stop looking likes “H’s”!?) (Yes, in less than a week, they did).
2) Wouldn’t we all like to do something carefree? Spontaneous? Crazy? (“Oh why not! Make that a pumpkin spice latte, please.”) Good for you, Duck. Good for you.
Near the end of the book a pack of kids comes flying farm-ward on bikes to the visit the boy.
And the spread that shows the animals’ reactions to all these bikes once they have been dropped and the kids are inside is perfect. Just perfect.
ALL of the animals—regardless of what they said, or what they were thinking, are now staring wide-eyed at the heap of metal and tires and bells and baskets. They are ITCHING, just dying, to RIDE THOSE BIKES.
And oh the fun of the next page—“Pig and Pig” on a tandem; Horse on a ten-speed; chicken on a trike…
“Then they put the bikes back by the house. And no one knew that on that afternoon, there had been a cow, a sheep, a dog, a cat, a horse, a chicken, a goat, two pigs, a mouse, and a duck on a bike.”
Seriously, read this book to your kids. Anytime. Anywhere.