Thursday, August 13, 2015

The duck and the darklings by Glenda Millard illustrated by Steven Michael King

Readers of this blog will know I adore the work of Glenda Millard.  I need to say this again I adore every word Glenda Millard writes and The Duck and the Darklings shows how her writing just gets better and better.

The Duck and the Darklings is short listed for the CBCA awards for 2015.  It is a tough competition but I do hope this book receives an honour at the very least.

Why do I love The Duck and the Darklings?  First of there are the magical words - real and invented - which perfectly convey life in an underground world.  Something has happened to the world above ground.  Many years have passed.  We do not need to know what has happened. Peterboy and his grandfather have carved out a warm and loving home and even though life is a daily struggle they have each other.  One day Peterboy finds a duck.  This new family member could disturb the precarious balance of their lives but instead the duck helps to bring Peterboy's grandfather back to life.  His depression lifts and in turn their lives lift, quite literally back to the world above where everyone (including the reader) makes a startling discovery.

Now onto some of those wonderful words.  Here is a list.  You, do however, need to find this book to fully appreciate each of these writing gems.

"almost everything had been disremembered"
"only when the heavenlies were deepest indigo and earth was darkest violet"
"Peterboy found Idaduck"
"in return she cosied his toes"
"Grandpa played oompapas on his curly brass tootle"
"rusty latchkey of his magnificent remembery"

And here is my favourite line :
"gathering fiddlesticks for firewood, filling billies with trickle"
I think trickle the most perfect word for water - especially scarce water.

There is so much to talk about with this book.  Even a simple sentence such as the opening one "In the land of dark great a child called Peterboy".  Where is the land of dark?  Has this child always lived in this place?  How do you know?  Why would his name be the combination of Peter and boy?

One very clever device in this book is the use of different sizes of type.  I found when reading this book aloud several times this week that this sizing helped me to pace my reading as well as making me become quieter as the words grew smaller.

When you look closely at the illustrations in this glorious book you can see all the little trade mark favourites of Steven Michael King - teapots, umbrellas, red fabric with yellow polka-dots and those little dot eyes which are some how so very expressive.  Make sure you spend time talking about the possibilities depicted in the final illustration.

The Duck and the Darklings is a book to treasure.  Here is a set of teaching notes.  It is difficult to give you an exact audience for this book.  We will share it with our students in Grade Three right up to Grade Six.  If you need to know more try this review.  Here is a quote from Inside a Dog :

This is the most extraordinary book – 
it is a tale of hope, and triumph and resilience; 
of love and friendship and family; of connection and belonging. 

But what sets it apart is the most magnificent language that Glenda Millard has used – language that is so evocative and imaginative and expressive that you are just absorbed into the story 
as it wraps around you.  

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