Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Two Trios Times Two

Comedy is rarely lost on children.  They long for laughter with it bubbling to the surface of their personalities freely and easily.  If there is the slightest edge of silliness involved, they will seek it out at every opportunity.  

When little guys and gals or someone learning to read for the first time encounter characters enjoying the same kind of activities they might do, they have found new and lasting friends.  Salina Yoon, a gift to the children's literature world, creating heartwarming books for young readers (and those young at heart), introduces three new individuals.  In the first book, Duck, Duck, Porcupine! (Bloomsbury Children's Books, May 17, 2016), Big Duck, her not-yet-talking younger brother, Little Duck, and Porcupine begin with three adventures set forth in three short stories (chapters). 

This is a perfect day for a picnic, Porcupine. 

Porcupine heartily agrees.  As Big Duck goes off to get the picnic basket, Porcupine heads away to get a blanket.  Without uttering a sound, Little Duck looks skyward, noting gathering clouds.  He has an umbrella tucked under his arm.

Rain begins falling in earnest with Big Duck and Porcupine saddened by this turn of events.  Taking a different view Little Duck looks for the silver lining.  It's not long before Big Duck and Porcupine shift their attitudes too but their conclusions will have you grinning.

In the second tale Big Duck keeps trying to remember something very important.  She even has a string tied around her wing tip (which she fails to notice initially).  Little Duck tries six different times to jar Big Duck's memory with huge hints but she keeps missing his point.  Like a bolt of lightning the truth strikes and her comment to Porcupine is hilarious.

With a declaration of 

"Let's go camping!

the threesome is diving into a new experience.  Organizer extraordinaire Big Duck assumes control by generating a list.  As the hours pass, the list gets longer.  It seems Big Duck likes to be prepared.

As she and Porcupine, who has never been camping, gather items darkness descends.  Number ninety-nine on the list will have readers roaring with laughter.  What has Little Duck been doing?  He's been getting the only things necessary for the ultimate camping trip.  Move over, Little Duck.  I'm with you.

My Kite Is Stuck! And Other Stories (Bloomsbury Children's Books, January 10, 2017) written and illustrated by Salina Yoon is a companion title (A Duck, Duck, Porcupine! Book) with three new charming and comical narratives.  Problem solving, friendship and entrepreneurship are presented with wisdom and wit.  The three characters' personalities shine brighter than ever.

Oh no!
My kite is stuck in the tree!

When Porcupine's kicked ball and Little Duck's thrown (by Big Duck) hula hoop into the tree don't dislodge her kite, Little Duck enters the scene.  He is pushing a step ladder on wheels.  It looks like this might work until Big Duck does the unthinkable.

As if that's not the most ridiculous solution ever, she decides to give Porcupine an impromptu flying lesson. YIKES!  Little Duck offers his assistance yet again but Big Duck and Porcupine are on an entirely different plane of thought which will have you giggling.

Excited as can be, Porcupine greets Big Duck with news about a new friend in the second tale.  This new friend is happily buzzing around joining Porcupine in his activities.  Every time Big Duck points out what she thinks a bee can't do, Porcupine points out her capabilities.  Before long, Big Duck has a new friend.  

What you might ask is the difference between a bee and a ladybug?  Big Duck's point of view makes all the difference.  WAIT!  What's going on with Little Duck?  He's not sure about this new "friend".

In the midst of a hot sunny day, there is nothing better than a cool glass of lemonade.  Big Duck announces they need to make a lemonade stand.  She and Porcupine paint and build like true professionals.  They make sure all who pass their stand know exactly what they are selling and the cost.

Just when Porcupine thinks they are ready for business, Big Duck wants to add decorative touches.  As customers line up, it dawns on the duo what is missing.  We've been given hints about our silent hero Little Duck working on his own project.  Of course, Big Duck has the last word but we know the rest of the story.

Written with a keen understanding of her audience and masterful pacing Salina Yoon has created two wonderful early chapter titles.  The distinctive characters, born leader (in her own mind), the easy-going friend and the-silent-but-oh-so-wise younger sibling, immediately claim a place in readers' collective experiences.  Her simple sentences state the obvious but each conversation builds toward the final observations which are like punch lines in the best kind of joke.  By having Little Duck be silent, it leaves room for audience participation in imagining his thoughts.

Rendered digitally in Adobe Photoshop all of the images beginning with the front of both book cases introduce us to the happy-go-lucky characters.  If you will notice in both of them Little Duck is looking directly at readers.  He is the one who without saying a word will be most closely aligned with us in visual asides.  On the back of each volume the pictures and text inform us as to the type of stories we will read.  The color of the opening and closing endpapers is identical to the color on the spine of each; sunny yellow and bright orange.

In the first book the title page features Big Duck and Porcupine snacking at their picnic.  Little Duck is showcased on the title page in the second book.  Opposite the verso is a Three Short Stories table of contents.  A single page is devoted to the title of each story.  

Using her signature wide black frames around her illustrations and heavy black lines outlining the elements in her pictures along with cheerful, bright colors, Salina Yoon creates a most excellent venue for these characters and their stories.  Her details, the blue baseball cap on Little Duck, the flower in Big Duck's feathers and the bow tie on Porcupine contribute to the overall spirited nature of these individuals.  She also adds tiny sound effect words in her pictures drawing us into the action.  But the best thing of all is how she is able to convey an array of emotion with her facial expressions and body postures; subtle shifts in placement.  Her eyes are simple but they all tell a tale.

There are so many illustrations in each book to love but in the first title one of my favorite pictures is of Little Duck trying to help Big Duck remember what she forgot.  It is a two-page picture.  On the right beneath a sunny blue sky, Little Duck is pecking at a date with a red star on a calendar.  Hands on her hips, Big Duck is complaining that his pecking is not helping her to think.

In book two I burst into laughter at the close-up of Little Duck's face on the single page image opposite the latest attempt of Big Duck to get her kite unstuck.  Who would have thought she would throw the small step ladder into the tree instead of using it as a...well...ladder?  His look is hilarious.  His eyes are saying...Did this really just happen?

Duck, Duck, Porcupine! and My Kite Is Stuck And Other Stories (A Duck, Duck, Porcupine! Book) both written and illustrated by Salina Yoon strike the right chord for young readers.  I highly recommend you give them a place on your professional and personal bookshelves.  Be sure to have multiple copies available.  You are going to be hearing lots of laughter.  

To learn more about Salina Yoon and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Duck, Duck, Porcupine! was one of the nominated titles discussed by The Association for Library Service for Children during the process for their Notable Children's Books-2017.  You can preview some of the interior images for the books at the publisher's website for Duck, Duck, Porcupine! and My Kite Is Stuck And Other Stories (A Duck, Duck, Porcupine! Book). 

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