cover image One Duck Stuck

One Duck Stuck

Phyllis Root. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0334-2

Just as the title of this satisfying counting book says, there's one duck stuck (in the muck, as it turns out). Different groups of marshland creatures, from two fish to 10 dragonflies, appear with an offer of help. Each arrival is described with verbal relish: ""Nine snakes/ leaving little wakes/ slither to the duck./ Slink, slink."" However, no matter what the number or the species, the result is the same: the duck stays stuck. Root's (Mrs. Potter's Pig) wordplay finds an effective visual counterpart in Chapman's (Dora's Eggs) full-bleed gouaches. The illustrator revels in juxtaposing strong colors, so that the hues in her palette pop with a primary-like brightness. But the book does suffer from a major leap in logic: it's never clear how the animals tried to use their distinctive talents in their failed attempts to free the duck. When they all finally gather to effect a joint rescue effort, nothing happens except a recap of the funny noises they make; on the penultimate spread, the duck simply steps out of the goo with a ""Spluck!"" Will children wonder why the duck didn't extract itself earlier? Probably not--they'll be too enchanted by Chapman's vibrant pictures and the immensely satisfying sounds and rhythms of Root's text. Ages 2-5. (May)