February 09, 2006


Five Little Ducks. Illustrated by Ivan Bates. Orchard Books/Scholastic. $12.99.

Goodnight, My Duckling. By Nancy Tafuri. Scholastic. $6.99.

Dinosaur Dinosaur. By Kevin Lewis. Illustrated by Daniel Kirk. Orchard Books/Scholastic. $15.99.

Mix the fuzzy cuteness of ducks with a much-loved nursery song and you have Five Little Ducks with Ivan Bates’ delightful illustrations. Bates manages to mix the realism of the ducks’ appearance with some very human-like expressions and activities involving the ducklings themselves and the other animals they meet (ducks holding things with their front legs, a goat smiling, mother duck crying when “no little ducks came waddling back,” and so on). Kids ages 3-5 will enjoy the pictures for this rhyme that they probably already know. And they will especially like the final reunion scene, when all the little ducks come waddling back – bringing their mother the gifts that they had wandered away to get for her.

Children in the same age group get a nicely sized board book all their own in Nancy Tafuri’s Goodnight, My Duckling. This is a followup and companion to Tafuri’s Have You Seen My Duckling? – but the board book stands on its own. The story is kept very simple: an increasingly sleepy baby duck gets good-night wishes from other animals (a beaver, a frog and more). By the time all the good-nights have been said, mother duck and the other ducklings have gone off to sleep and the laggard little duck is alone on the big lake – until a friendly turtle lends a helping hand…err, shell. Tafuri’s animals are even more realistic than Bates’: they do talk to each other, but they look and behave just like real-life animals (well, except for the turtle-helps-duck scene). The scenery here is as lovingly pictured as are the animals. The result is a wonderful bit of bedtime reading for any parent’s little duckling.

Dinosaur Dinosaur is also for ages 3-5 and, like Five Little Ducks, has a rhythmic tale to tell – a jump-rope rhyme in this case. Many parts of it are fun, but it is not quite as good as the other books – call it (+++). The dinos-dressed-up-as-suburban-kids approach is not really a new one, and some of the illustrations could actually be a bit scary for sensitive young children (for example, the mother dino’s super-toothy grin at the breakfast table). This is a book whose details are more fun than its main story: look for the saber-toothed housecat, the dinosaur toothbrush holder (and the nearby “pterano-paste”), the woolly mammoth stuffed toy, and so on. But the rhymes wear thin quickly, with page after page like this: “Muddy-duddy dinosaur,/ soap up in the tub./ Bubbly-wubbly dinosaur,/ rub-a-dub-a-dub.” The story will more likely appeal to younger children in the target age range, the illustrations to older (and more raucous) ones. Parents will be able to tell with a quick flip through the book whether they have little dinos like these at home.

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