Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, December 19, 2016

One By One...

There are no other books quite like her books.  Each year she and her signature artwork is the subject of a much-loved author study in elementary schools.  The younger students are fascinated with her illustrative techniques.  They love the rhythm, rhyme and pacing of her text specifically written for them.  Within moments of beginning to read aloud any of her titles, you can see the listeners caught up in the cadence of the story.

In her second book released this year, we are captivated by a charming family of waterfowl.  5 Little Ducks (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, November 8, 2016) written and illustrated by Denise Fleming is a lively trek from the pond, through the woods and around the farm.  It's an adventure filled with beings from the animal and human worlds.

5 little ducks went out Monday.

They leave the cozy comfort of their nest on the shore of the pond, moseying through tall trees.  A green frog, rabbit, flying squirrels and doe note their passing.  Their papa utters his

"Quack, quack, quack!"

and they all don't return.  One wanders.

Only four venture out on Tuesday.  Later four minus one head toward Papa Duck heeding his call.  On Wednesday the remaining ducklings set out for sights unseen.  What's that on the little duck's back?  Who is the little duck's new friend? Oh, oh only a duo listen to their daddy.

On Thursday and Friday explorations continue and the diminishing numbers dwindle.  On Friday when Papa Duck gives his cry, there is no answer.  No little ducks wiggle and wobble home.

On the sixth day of the week two mallards have an empty nest.  To bring their youngsters back, one male duck gives three mighty quacks.  Will one, two, three, four, five wayfarers wander back?  On Sunday if you happen to be quietly walking around the pond or slowly paddling by in your tiny boat, you'll have your answer.

A children's nursery song is given new wings and waddles in the masterful hands of Denise Fleming.  The little ducks walk their way through the days of the week inviting readers and listeners to participate.  More interest is supplied in having the little ducks explore new places each day.  By the time Wednesday is reached readers can anticipate the refrain while predicting their next point of interest.

The rhyming of quack and back and the repetition of far away after each day supply a catchy cadence.  The pacing and pause when no little ducks come to the nest and Saturday will have readers unfamiliar with the rhyme wondering what will happen next.  This is a wonderful way to build anticipation.  Having Papa Duck give the shout and Mama Duck having the final say shows the parents working together.

When you run your hands over the opened dust jacket the red title text is raised.  The scene of pond reeds and sandy shore extends on the other side of the spine with the ISBN nicely nestled in a stone.  The inquisitive body postures, eyes and open bills leave no doubt that these little ducks are going to be on the move.  Even though the text is not raised on the matching book case, you will find yourself reaching out to feel the imagined texture Denise Fleming makes in her illustrations.

On the matching opening and closing endpapers the reeds are sticking up through the water.  Lily pads float in a swirl of current.  Dragonflies hover, beetles scuttle and a green frog watches.  With a page turn the five little ducks swim into view.  The text on the verso page on the left is wavy like the surface of the pond.  The color of the title text shifts to golden yellow.

All of the following images stretch, edge to edge, across two pages.  Denise Fleming always tucks Papa Duck into the picture letting readers know he is keeping an eye on his family.  You are going to enjoy seeing each inquisitive little duck imitating the creatures they meet.

Although the colors are lively with hints of blue in many of the outlines, there is also a sense of peace and security in each spot the little ducks visit.  Careful readers will notice many other animals in each image other than those specifically greeted; sheep, a horse, crows, flies, cows, kittens and their mother, butterflies, a puppy, and red squirrels.  (In fact, Fleming asks you to find them at the close of the book.)  Each character is fully animated to the point you can almost hear them quack, buzz, croak, chew, gobble, caw, moo, meow, oink, chatter, bark or giggle.  If you are very, very quiet perhaps you can listen for a rabbit hop or a butterfly to glide nearby.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is when we are very close to three of the little ducks.  Two are walking away.  A third has a petal on his back trying to be like the box turtle trudging beside him.  Along the bottom of the page is a darker, rusty red path.  Above this is a row of colorful flowers acting as a background.  Perhaps it's a garden.

It seems to me the books written and illustrated by Denise Fleming, this book, 5 Little Ducks, is each equally engaging and spirited.  Her specialized work

pulp painting---a paper-making technique using colored cotton fiber poured through hand-cut stencils

accented by

pastel pencil

is perfect for the intended audience.  These books appeal to all the senses welcoming us into the extraordinary worlds found in each title.  You will want to add this to your personal and professional collections.  I did.  On the final two pages Denise Fleming includes seven paragraphs about certain aminals along with their pictures taken from the interior.

To learn more about Denise Fleming and her body of work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website she offers activities for this title and for her other books.  She has a page dedicated to pulp painting.  At the publisher's website you can view five interior images.  Be sure to visit author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for A Peek into Denise Fleming's Studio.  This September Denise Fleming was showcased at KIDLIT 411.  There is a series of video interviews at Reading Rockets.  Enjoy the book trailer.

I previously wrote about Sleepy, oh so Sleepy, underGround and Go, Shapes, Go! all by Denise Fleming.

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