cover image Ducks Disappearing

Ducks Disappearing

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Atheneum Books, $13 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31902-0

Despite some potentially attractive components-ducklings, a boy who likes to count, a mystery and a rescue mission-this picture book from Newbery Medalist Naylor (Shiloh) is surprisingly lackluster. While having lunch with his mom at a motel, a boy spies a mother duck and all 11 of her ducklings marching by the restaurant window. Subsequent head counts, however, reveal that the ducklings are disappearing one by one, but Willie's attempts to alert motel employees about the problem fall on deaf ears. When the concerned youngster discovers that the missing baby birds have fallen into a storm drain, the adults, after putting up a little more resistance, finally rescue the brood. Willie's counting skill and perseverance pay off, yet the payoff to readers of this poorly paced and inadequately characterized story is far less obvious. Drawing on a pale, at times washed-out palette, Maddox's spare watercolors are stiff and, like Naylor's text, offer little variety or stimulation. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)