cover image DILLY DUCKLING


Claire Freedman, , illus. by Jane Chapman. . S&S/McElderry, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86772-9

Dilly is in a dither because one of her downy yellow feathers has fallen out and blown away. "Stop that feather!" she quacks. "Come back!" Spike, a roly-poly hedgehog, offers to spear it, and Nibble, a pink-eared mouse, offers to grab it, but the wind keeps blowing Dilly's feather further out of reach. Freedman's (Hushabye Lily ) concise, comically urgent text should resonate with any child who knows how high the stakes feel when something dear is lost ("Careful... It's a very important feather!" Dilly whispers as Nibble gingerly reaches for it while balancing on a cornstalk). Chapman's (Bear Snores On ) sunny acrylics have a verve and immediacy that bring to life both the windy day and the anxieties of Dilly and her friends. When Nibble sneezes and misses her chance to grab the feather, the swirling breeze, the mouse's death-like grip on the fragile cornstalk and the horrified expressions of the duck and hedgehog transform the spread into an emotional and visual maelstrom that's at once funny and poignant. But all's well that ends well, as Dilly's mother informs her that molting is natural. "I don't need [that feather] anymore, do I?" Dilly observes happily. "I'll grow another one!" Here's hoping Freedman and Chapman produce another one, too. Ages 3-6. (Feb.)