A pet duck throws previously neighborly neighbors into discord, provoking all manner of wild imaginings by the children involved. Vicki Jones, her brother Ben, and their parents live on the edge of an English town. Everything is hunky-dory when Mrs. Spikes moves in next door—they enjoy chatting over the hedge, and Mrs. Spikes invites the children over for a glass of her secret red cordial—but when Mrs. Spikes brings home a duck for her garden pond, things delaminate. The duck won’t stop quacking; Mrs. Spikes pooh-poohs Mr. Jones’s suggestion that the duck is noisy; Mr. Jones finally blows a fuse; the neighbors stop talking to one another; and the children start to see dark doings at Mrs. Spikes’s house. They decide she is a witch who reads from a spell book (“What about that horrible syrup she made us drink,” asks Vicki about the heretofore tasty cordial) and keeps bats. When in an act of revenge, Mr. Jones gets his own duck to out-quack Mrs. Spikes’s, all goes strangely quiet. The tranquillity prompts neighbor to start talking to neighbor again, so much so that they even join yards to give the ducks access to each other. Some problems get solved in spite of themselves, the author seems to be suggesting, for there are no tactics to resolving neighborly spats being tendered here. But his expressive, comical paintings and the gentleness of the narrative put spats between neighbors in context. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2002

ISBN: 1-84270-015-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Edward and his father work for the Peabody Hotel in Memphis since the Depression has brought hard times for so many. On weekends they return to their farm in the hills and it’s there Edward finds John Philip Duck, named for the composer whose marches Edward listens to on the radio. Edward has to look after the scrawny duckling during the week, so he risks the ire of the hotel manager by taking John Philip with him. The expected occurs when Mr. Shutt finds the duckling. The blustery manager makes Edward a deal. If Edward can train John Philip to swim in the hotel fountain all day (and lure in more customers), Edward and the duck can stay. After much hard work, John Philip learns to stay put and Edward becomes the first Duck Master at the hotel. This half-imagined story of the first of the famous Peabody Hotel ducks is one of Polacco’s most charming efforts to date. Her signature illustrations are a bit brighter and full of the music of the march. An excellent read aloud for older crowds, but the ever-so-slightly anthropomorphic ducks will come across best shared one-on-one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-24262-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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