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Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?

Here is a book that knows how to visually establish conflict and character right off the bat. On the very first double-page spread (after the title spread), we meet a sad little green duck wearing big chunky lace-up shoes. The only other thing on this sea of white space is the text, in oversized type: “I have lost my new blue socks.” A page turn leaves the white space and simple, effective introduction behind; from here on in, we plunge into the story and into recognizable, full-bleed pen-and-ink and watercolor Sergio Ruzzier territory. The landscape is, as always, unusual: geometrically jagged rocks, blue, yellow, and green hills, a field full of…cabbages? Yes, unusual vegetation is a Sergio Ruzzier specialty, and here he ups the ante with unusual stuff as well. Inside Duck’s house, as he searches through his box to find his socks, are such disparate items as a soccer ball, a champagne cork, a funnel, a framed picture of an egg, a starfish. And more. There is method to his madness, however, because all this debris keeps our attention on the many odd objects and away from Duck himself. But as the book progresses, and as our attention becomes more and more centered on finding those lost blue socks, the landscape gets cleaner and cleaner, less and less littered. We don’t have much to look at except Duck and his shoes…which are slowly coming untied, revealing – yes, you guessed it.

I admire so much about this book. I love the respect for the child shown here, both outside of and inside the book. It’s possible for an alert child reader to spot the little bit of blue peeking out from above Duck’s loosening shoe — Ruzzio gives his audience several chances to find the blue on its own before we come to the spread in which the whole focus is on Duck’s feet. A family of blue peacocks stare pointedly at Duck, but it’s the littlest one – the child peacock – who actually spots the socks: “Are those you’re wearing now the same?”

The arc of the book is a perfect progression from sad duck to ecstatic duck, from lost socks to found socks, from the beginning of one quest to the beginning of another – because Duck may have found his new blue socks, but pretty soon he’ll be lookin’ for his old brown shoes.

The fact that Eve Bunting’s text works so perfectly as a Green Eggs and Ham homage but with a flavor and purpose all its own (“I have not seen your new blue socks. Did you look inside your box? Did you ask your friend the ox?”)  is a bonus for the Caldecott committee. The rhyme, the story, the character of Duck, the fun of the hunt, the silliness of the outcome – all will keep readers coming back to this one again and again. I hope the committee does, too.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. Patty Kreutzer says:

    So glad to see this book here! Somehow, I didn’t see this book until last month, and I am completely charmed. I’ve read (or recommended it) to kids of various ages, and they all love it. The rhyming verse is cute, yet not cloying, and as Martha says – Ruzzier’s illustrations create a fantastical world for children to explore. (A little girl asked: “Is that egg Duck’s baby picture?”) Ruzzier’s drawings, as usual, add many fun digressions to the story. They’re also funny enough to make adults not mind reading it over and over again. Many children will find the socks before Duck does, but only a few might guess what Fox is reading while snacking on grapes!

  2. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    Aesop’s Fables!

    And I LOVE that little girl’s question. Of course that’s what the egg photo must be! Fabulous insight. Thanks for adding so much to the conversation.

  3. This second collaboration from Eve Bunting and Sergio Ruzzier totally knocks my socks off. The story has the perfect pitch of playfulness to it in words and pictures that children relish diving right into. I especially admire the build up of suspense in the race from one page to the next to find those darn socks, as well as, the little surprises that lurk here and there throughout each scene. It really gives the reader so much space to roam around in and occupy the story as she or he toys with searching for the answer to the puzzle. I think that’s what I admire most about this book, that on surface poor duck’s ordeal appears so simple and straightforward, but the way it’s pulled off we believe it and feel it while we laugh ourselves silly.

  4. While the text by Eve Bunting provides the inviting rhythmic beat, using a repetition of words, the artwork of Sergio Ruzzier provides the landscape allowing the narrative to flow, shift and grow, from beginning to end. The single peacock feather shown on the title page hints at the story’s resolution. Readers know even before the text begins something is amiss as duck leans dejectedly out his window. With his delicate lines Ruzzier depicts much emotion. The expressions on duck’s face and his body language leave no doubt as to his exact feelings. Even though you feel sympathy for his loss, you can hardly contain your laughter at the disarray in his home, the collection of seemingly disparate objects he has gathered. That’s the thing with the illustrations; we feel empathy for duck but are also bolstered by the color palette and the quirky elements. I truly appreciate the portrayal of fox reading a book and ox painting a picture. Duck’s friends are searching as he is. Everyone should have a pair of shoes like Duck’s shoes; old favorites worn and loved.

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