Sunday, April 6, 2014

Just Duckie!

If you travel down the nearest major street to my home, you will pass houses with a man-made small lake (pond) behind them.  In front of one of the houses on the other side of the street is a sign that says "Duck Crossing".  That sign was the inspiration for the stories and activities  shared in kindergarten and first grade this week.  (I am happy to report that every time ducks are crossing to the house that feeds them, the traffic on the street always stops.  Only once have I heard as much as a car horn.) 

The Ks and first grade did the obvious like singing "Six Little Ducks That I Once Knew" and reciting "Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play".  They colored ducks that we could then attach to a craft stick for simple puppet.  You should have seen the ducks.  They were beautiful and creative.  One boy spent a long time carefully coloring concentric circles in bright colors and then rays of other colors to complete his duck.  He named it "Radiated Duck."

It amazed me how many picture books we had about ducks--so many that I could not possible share them all.

The natural first choice for duck stories is the classic, Caldecott Award winning, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  It was first published in 1941 and is still a lovely and much loved story.  I did not get to know Boston until my daughter moved there for graduate school, but I immediately recognized the Public Gardens from the many times I saw it when I read this book over and over.  The cars and the police uniforms may have changed but the swan boats are still there.  Of course, now there is also the row of duck statues for Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, Quack, and Mrs. Mallard.  If you are going to Boston, be sure to read (or re-read) this story so you can fully enjoy seeing the Charles River and other sights of the city.

Bringing memories of the illustrations of Make Way for Ducklings  to a new story is just part of the charm of Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore.  It gives a happy ending to the story we hear all too often of ducklings that fall through the grate on the city drainage system.  Thanks to clear thinking humans the ducks are saved after their fall and reunited with their mother who insists that she has to lead them across the street...this time with help.

Outfoxed by Mike Twohy has great illustrations and a story that is guaranteed to get laughs from kids and adults.  Fox raids the hen house at great peril to himself only to find that he has actually gotten a duck when his heart was set on a chicken dinner.  He is willing to settle until the duck announces with a wag of its tail and a slobbering lick to fox's face that he is actually a dog.  For the rest of that evening the duck does all kinds of dog like things--from lots of jumping and licking to  barking and looking adorable.  That night he even sleeps with fox.  Alas, in the morning, fox decides that the darling duck/dog needs to go back to the far because a fox does not keep a pet.  Duck/dog cries pitifully but fox throws him over the farm fence, anyway.  Has fox made a mistake?  The twist at the end will answer that question.

Patricia Polacco writes so many well known books that sometimes others are overlooked.  One of those is John Philip Duck which tells the story of the little boy that brings his pet duck to work at the
Peabody Hotel in Memphis and that duck grows up to be one of the ducks that daily ride the elevator down to the main lobby swim in the fountain, under the guidance of the Duck Master, a job first given to the young boy who started the tradition.  The story has just the right balance of tension and charm along with its historical accuracies.

Duck to the Rescue continues the series by John Himmelman, however, unlike cows, pigs, and chickens, duck does not seem to be able to get anything quite right.  Sheep has the perfect solution.  This is a series loved by the kids as they love to chant, "Duck (or whoever the animal of the book is) to the Rescue!" every third page and then see what happens next.

Guji, Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen can be a very deep story if you want to make it that.  It is all about making choices about who you are and who your family is.  Of course, the kids just want to see what this crocodile hatched into a duck family does after meeting his bad crocodile cousins.  He is one smart crocoduck.  The illustrations are especially quirky and charming.

There are myriad other duck stories.  Look for titles by Jez Alborough, Doreen Cronin, Jackie Urbanovic and more.  Let me know what makes you feel just duckie.

Note Emerson students:  Lucky Duckies will be back at Emerson after break.  See if you can win a little duck by checking out a book that is checked out Lucky Duckie.

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