The star of Waddell's (A Kitten Called Moonlight) heartwarming tale starts life "All folded up so he'd fit in the egg," but soon the plucky duck is out and about, looking for the mother who's nowhere to be seen. Astute readers will notice on the book's title page that Mother Duck is merely taking a swimming break in the water near the nest, but Webster J. Duck doesn't know that: he heads for the adjacent farm fields and quacks queries to increasingly larger "ducks" with waggly tails (a dog), woolly coats (a sheep) and even udders (a cow). Each time, he realizes that "My mother would go/ quack-quack
like me!" His new friends, moved by his despair, offer up clarion calls of "BOW-WOW!" "BAA-BAA!" and "MOO-MOO-MOO-MOO!" and successfully beckon Webster's mother for a joyous first meeting. Even very young children may notice the striking similarities to the classic Are You My Mother?
Parkins's (Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble) painterly watercolors, however, possess a magic and originality that's hard to resist: his lakeside landscape shimmers with light, and he endows his pint-sized protagonist with emotional depth. Ages 2-4. (Aug.)