cover image French Ducks in Venice

French Ducks in Venice

Garret Freymann-Weyr, illus. by Erin McGuire. Candlewick, $16.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4173-3

YA author Freymann-Weyr (After the Moment) examines grief in her first picture book; a dusting of Hollywood glamour makes newcomer McGuire’s rich digital illustrations, which have the feel of concept art for an animated film, an inspired choice. The heroine, Polina Panova, is a lovely dressmaker in Venice, Calif., whose filmmaker boyfriend has left her. She’s bereft, and her friends Georges and Cécile, ducks who live in the canal behind her house, are indignant. “I will start looking for her new prince,” Georges announces. “Ducks do not find princes,” Cécile scolds. “Princesses find them.” Freymann-Weyr’s mannered narrative voice keeps emotions firmly in check (“This will not do,” are Georges’s harshest words), and her storytelling gifts are unmistakable: Polina’s dresses, she writes, are made with “grass, flowers, pieces of the night sky, and strawberry jam.” There’s virtue in presenting a portrait of loss with a spoonful of sugar; readers learn how to talk about hurt (“I will always be a little bit sad,” says Polina, explaining that time doesn’t erase pain completely), while McGuire’s cinematically lit pictures recall classic Disney images of winsome animals consoling star-crossed heroines. Ages 5–10. (Dec.)