If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck.
Right? Well, what if it IS a duck, but doesn't walk or talk like one?
"My Duck," written and illustrated by Tanya Linch, captures the essence of that question with delicious style.
A little girl with l'orange hair is asked by her teacher to write and illustrate a story. When the girl draws shoes upon the webbed feet of her main character, the duck, her bullying teacher has a cow. The teacher orders a tearful girl to start again.
The girl begins a different story, but the duck is already on the move. (It's gotta be the shoes.)
The teacher finds fault with the girl's second story. The duck finds a fine spot to sit a spell in the girl's second story.
The teacher finds fault with the girl's third story. The duck finds a new friend in the girl's third story.
By the time the girl's fourth story is under way, the duck and the friend (a little flying girl with only one wing) are flitting about the page with lunch plans of their own. This time the teacher barely notices the antics of the unconventional characters and is thrilled with her pupil's progress.
What readers will be thrilled with is the marvelous, rich color Lynch incorporated into the illustrations for "My Duck" (Scholastic, $14.95). The chunky drawings have a simplistic feel to them that belies the skill it took to create them. A closer look reveals that even the little girl's drawings are laden with form, color, texture and surprise.
Even though the example set by this teacher may be a goose egg, this is one story that is simply ducky.
Some parents are in the dark when they have their first baby. The No-Nothings are in a black hole.
"The No-Nothings and their Baby," by Anne Mazer and Ross Collins, pushes the extremes of parenthood to the far reaches of hilarity. While most first-time parents would be paralyzed with fear, Bertram Reliable Butternut No-Nothing and Doriana Hiccup Whatsername No-Nothing are blissfully ignorant.
The expectant couple who really know nothing go to the drive-up window of the fast-food restaurant because it promised "speedy delivery."
Luckily, the No-Nothings are surrounded by lots of patient, helpful people who make sure the tenderfoot parents do right by their new little princess.
"The No-Nothings and Their Baby" (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $15.95) is a great book for parents to read aloud with their young children. The book is filled with fun and crazy teaching moments as well as zany artwork by Collins that adds even more entertainment to the story.
"The No-Nothings" is really something.
Music lovers, take note.
Here's a story that explores the variety of orchestra instruments and benefits VH1's Save the Music Foundation, which helps support music education in public schools. It's also written by a well-known actor, who gained fame for portraying a know-it-all Kansas University professor in "The Day After."
"The Remarkable Farkle McBride," written by John Lithgow and illustrated by C.F. Payne, shadows the melodious maneuvers of child prodigy Farkle McBride.
A 3-year-old Farkle immerses himself quite beautifully in the variance of the violin. But by age 4, the bow and fiddle have lost their draw. At age 5, Farkle discovers the fingering of the flute. But a finicky 6-year-old Farkle flings the flute aside. The rhyming tale continues on that tune until a 10-year-old Farkle figures out what really beats his drum.
Lithgow's charming story (for ages 4-8) introduces youngsters to the wondrous depth of an orchestra. At the same time, Payne's lifelike illustrations of people with funky facial expressions will have children giggling in the aisle and begging for an encore.
"The Remarkable Farkle McBride" (Simon & Schuster, $16) is worth the price of admission.
Jill Hummels is a free-lance writer living in Lawrence. She is the mother of Haley, 9, and Tess, 7.