cover image Five Little Ducks

Five Little Ducks

, . . Scholastic/Orchard, $12.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-74693-9

A golden oldie from the kids' song catalogue (the music for which is reprinted on the book's final page) gets an adorably funny treatment from Bates (Just You and Me ). What exactly happens to the disappearing ducklings when Mother duck tries to call her brood back to her side with a "Quack, quack, quack"? Bates imagines that each feathery waddler meets up with a friendly member of another species, and is inspired to acquire a present for mom that reflects the new pal's distinctive habitat. The first duck meets a smiling beaver, and snags a worm from its stream; the second plucks a flower from a contented cow's meadow, while a third duckling sees a crab and discovers a shell on the shore. With the song's lyrics as the only text, the book offers readers plenty of opportunity to imagine their own dialogue. Bates renders the ducks' benevolent encounters with customary effortlessness. He strikes just the right balance between realism and anthropomorphism, and finds a sweet-natured humor in contrasting the diminutive ducks with their much bigger acquaintances. The wrap-up finds all the ducklings "waddling back," bearing gifts for Mother that they've found all by themselves—a nice message that a little independence is not such a bad thing. Ages 3-5. (Feb.)