cover image Why Ducks Sleep on One Leg

Why Ducks Sleep on One Leg

Sherry Garland. Scholastic, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-45697-5

In this singular collaboration, Garland's ( Song of Buffalo Boy ) breezy narrative and Jean and Mou-sien Tseng's ( The Seven Chinese Brothers ) beguiling watercolors offer an entertaining explanation of the eponymous phenomenon. Set in feudal Vietnam, this folktale centers on three ducks that have received only one leg each. Ridiculed by the other animals, and unable to paddle well enough to catch fish or to move quickly on land, these creatures feel shortchanged: ``It isn't fair that someone ran out of duck legs and forgot to make any more.'' With the help of a rooster and a goose, the three write a petition to the Jade Emperor, and appeal to the village guardian to deliver it. Yet this individual solves the dilemma himself, giving the petitioners extra golden legs from an incense burner. When he warns the ducks that they must guard their new appendages carefully, the three start a trend by tucking their golden legs up under their wings at night, ``safely out of sight.'' Garland's inclusion of select Vietnamese words lends her tale a pleasing authenticity. Readers will linger over the illustrators' crisply defined art, accented with bursts of luminescent reds, golds and greens against backgrounds of soft pastels. Elegant and funny. Ages 3-8. (Feb.)