March 09, 2006


Duck & Goose. By Tad Hills. Schwartz & Wade. $14.95.

Where’s My Sock? By Joyce Dunbar. Illustrated by Sanja Rescek. Chicken House/Scholastic. $15.99.

Good Boy, Fergus! By David Shannon. Blue Sky Press/Scholastic. $15.99.

     Animals provide a wonderful way to reach out to children ages 3-7.  Each of these books reaches out differently, and all of them successfully.  Duck & Goose – from Schwartz & Wade, a new Random House imprint – tells the simple story of a very large, very round, very spotted egglike object that the title characters find at the same time.  They don’t know each other – and each lays claim to the egg.  Then they start thinking about ways to enforce their claims, including some very funny fantasizing about fencing the egg off and posting signs saying “no honking” (Duck’s fantasy) and “no quacking in this area” (Goose’s).  Then these two young opponents both try to sit on the egg to hatch it – and Tad Hills draws a wonderfully mixed-up picture of the two of them doing it.  Eventually they start sharing their dreams for the egg, find out that they have much in common, and then learn that the egg is really…well, the fun of this book is that Duck and Goose don’t know what young readers will know almost immediately.  The eventual friendship lesson, though soft-pedaled, is clearly and pleasantly delivered.

     The animal with the lost sock in Where’s My Sock? is Pippin, a mouse, and he already has a good friend in Tog, a kitten.  Pippin’s second “yellow sock with clocks” is missing, and no matter how hard the two friends search for it, they can’t find it.  Pippin gets more and more irritated, more and more cranky, until he and Tog go on “a serious sock hunt” through what looks like a maze (one of the cleverer drawings by Sanja Rescek).  The friends find so many socks that they have to string them on a clothesline to pair them up – a scene shown in facing-page foldouts, turning a double-page spread into the size of a four-page one (another very clever illustration).  Joyce Dunbar makes sure that the yellow sock is found at last, in a way that cements Pippin and Tog’s friendship and gives them – and young readers – a good laugh.

     Good Boy, Fergus! seems aimed at younger children than the other books – perhaps ages three and four.  David Shannon’s pictures are the focus here, with the few words – especially those of the title, which are frequently repeated – being shown in very large type.  Fergus is a cute little white dog who obeys occasionally but certainly not all of the time.  He listens pretty well when offered a treat (though he doesn’t get his trained behaviors exactly right).  But when he sees a cat, we get the funniest part of the book, showing Fergus sniffing the base of a tree while his increasingly exasperated owner calls him in ever-larger type that even turns red.  Fergus clearly has his alleged owner well in hand: this is a dog who, if he snubs his food, gets whipped cream on it as a treat.  Parents may not approve of the extent to which Fergus is disobedient and spoiled, but very young readers will enjoy the super-simple story and the playfulness it celebrates.

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