cover image Duckworth, the Difficult Child

Duckworth, the Difficult Child

Michael Sussman, illus. by Júlia Sardà. Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-0512-7

Duckworth has a problem: a scarlet serpent as big as a minivan is coiled in his closet, and his parents, immersed in their new copy of Dealing with Your Difficult Child, are unconcerned. Then the snake swallows Duckworth—neatly, so that he can still hold a conversation. They remain unimpressed. “Where did you find that snake costume?” his father asks. After his parents share a game of checkers, a dinner, and a stroll with the snake, it’s clear that Duckworth must save himself. He does, handily, and the snake exits without a fuss. Sardà (Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein) creates an elegantly chilly atmosphere for Duckworth’s Treehorn Trilogy–esque drawing room comedy. His parents’ on-trend décor provides a perfect foil for the beast’s primal energy; the house is all plinths and angles, while the snake forms a tangle of graceful, undulating curves. Sussman (Otto Grows Down) makes the most of the rib-tickling contrast between mortal danger and proper manners: “It’s not a snake costume!” shouts Duckworth from inside the snake, his words rendered in tiny type to suggest muffled cries. At the end, though, Duckworth’s still stuck with his parents, prompting not a laugh, but a whiff of dread. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, Red Fox Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (June) [/em]