Do Like a Duck Does, by Judy Hindley

Why are there so many children’s stories and songs about ducks? Ducklings are cute, but they’re not exactly cuddly. Supposedly you can get them to imprint and follow you around (like in “Fly Away Home”), but we recently discovered in our household that this is easier said than done. My sister persuaded me to co-invest in ducklings; I wanted eggs and she wanted pets. They didn’t imprint, though, and now we have five overgrown grain-fed teenagers of unknown gender that eat a lot of food, produce a lot of poop, and so far don’t give anything back (not to discount their contribution to the compost pile).

So I’m not quite sure what the fascination with the animals is. But I must admit that I find Judy Hindley‘s Do Like A Duck Does irresistible, with the militant mama duck determined to outwit a fox masquerading as a fowl. Much of the book’s genius stems from the rhythm and rhyme of Hindley‘s upbeat text, together with the irony of a bird brain going head-to-head with the legendary wit of a fox–and winning.

Here’s an excerpt, following the fox’s attempt to make a meal of a duckling:

But Mama turns and catches him
and says, “Look here!
You don’t like bugs.
You don’t like muck.
You can’t say quack….
Are you sure
you’re a duck?”

The spunky mama both embodies the notorious stupidity of ducks (who would mistake a fox for a duck?) and flaunts it, with her clever schemes to expose the “hairy-scary stranger.” There’s probably some archetypal appeal to mama’s five little ducklings, or at least allusions to the songs about little ducks–always five. But literary qualities aside, I just like the book.

The anthropomorphic touches to Ivan Bates‘s illustrations complement Hindley’s text, with an indignant furrow in mama duck’s brow and a choleric glow on her puffed-out cheeks. Bates‘s varied design and page layouts further enhance the book’s appeal.

To be honest, though, I think I am more enamored with Do Like a Duck Does than my 18-month-old is. The number of words on a page approaches her limit, but the lyrical text seems to compensate for this. Do Like a Duck Does also employs more complex sentence structures than some of Hindley‘s other books; I recently read it to a three- and six-year-old and realized that the syntax and vocabulary probably place this book above the comprehension of most preschoolers. The six-year-old, however, was with me all the way through.

So thank you to Judy Hindley for an original work about fluffy yellow ducklings….But if anyone can recommend a book about a goat, I’d appreciate it. My daughter has been talking for a week and a half about a stray goat we saw tethered in a neighbor’s yard, and I can’t think of a single story or song about goats … except the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

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