cover image Waddles


David McPhail, Abrams, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8415-8

McPhail's characteristically gentle earth-toned ink and watercolor pictures steer this quaint story about "a very round raccoon," who waddles like a duck, and his best friend, who is a duck. Images of Waddles and Emily in their pond-side environs convey their mutual affection. When Emily lays a nestful of eggs, Waddles brings her food and later protects the eggs while Emily takes a swimming break. After the eggs hatch with Waddles guarding the nest, the ducklings waddle behind him to the pond to join their mother. Swimming, snacking, and cuddling with the ducklings, "Waddles had never been so happy." But when autumn arrives, Emily explains that she and her ducklings are flying south for the winter (given that Emily and Waddles aren't newly acquainted friends, it's not entirely clear why this news comes as a surprise). Still, readers will share in his palpable joy when, as expected, the family returns in spring. Despite some amusing trash- diving for food and a (too tame) encounter with a marauding fox, the story's mild portrayal of friendship isn't rewarding enough to offset the overt sweetness. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)