Review of 5 Little Ducks

5 Little Ducks
by Denise Fleming; 
illus. by the author
Preschool    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.
11/16    978-1-4814-2422-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-2423-3    $10.99

Listeners familiar with the traditional nursery rhyme and song know the general plotline: every day ducks go out; every day the returning group shrinks by one. But the particulars — highlighted in glorious full-bleed, pulp-painted illustrations and chock-full of opportunities for listener participation — create a multilayered adventure for preschoolers. Glorious endpapers, showing pond grasses, lily pads, a frog, a couple of dragonflies, and a pair of turtles, not only signal the ducks’ habitat but also provide an opportunity to identify some of the creatures that live there. On the first spread: “5 little ducks went out Monday,” accompanied by Papa Duck. They leave their familiar pond and enter the neighboring woods, where they encounter even more wildlife (butterflies, deer, rabbit, flying squirrel). Papa Duck calls, “Quack, quack, quack,” but as we expect, “only 4 little ducks came back.” The fifth duck is partially hidden in the illustration, creating a pattern for the decreasing numbers that continues through Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday — when we see a little girl playing in her plastic pool, now with a ducky friend. All ends well for the duck family members, and on Sunday they rest. Here’s a journey worth taking, filled with the wonder and grandeur of the natural world alongside practical information such as counting and days of the week. Back matter provides a picture glossary, identifying many of the creatures from the story.

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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