Duck for a Day is the fantastic new book written by Meg McKinlay with wonderful illustrations by Leila Rudge, the team who brought us the picture book, No Bears. I am a broken record (can I still use that idiom relevantly?) when it comes to ranting about the lack of diverse, well written chapter books and I get very excited whenever one comes my way. Duck for a Day is all these things - a chapter book that takes the familiar school setting and tips it over while at the same time presenting readers with thoughtful, rounded, complex characters and a fun and funny plot.
Duck for a Day beings with the chapter titled, "The Bag That Quacked," which should give you a pretty good idea of the perspective McKinlay will take with her duck tale. The duck in the quacking bag, which is really a carrying case, is Max, and he lives with Mrs Melvino, Abby's new teacher. Mrs Melvino is like no other teacher Abby has ever seen. She has, "wild, curly hair and rectangular glasses with purple frames. She was wearing a long, flowing skirt with funny little bells hanging off it, and dangly earrings that jingled when she moved, like the wind chimes Mom hung out back." And, while Mrs Melvino is special, it is Abby who feels a bit unusual. Even though she asks every single birthday and Christmas, her parents will not let her have a pet like the rest of her classmates. Her mother, it seems, finds them much too messy. Even a quiet goldfish will surely have "water slopping everywhere" and require smelly fish food, not to mention the "googly eyes staring at you and their endless swimming around and around." When Abby remembers that the class rabbit from last year went home with students on the weekends, she is sure she will find a way to convince her parents and Mrs Melvino to let her have a duck sleepover, even if it is only for a few days.
However, Mrs Melvino has some very specific requirements for a weekend home for Max. In the chapter titled, "The Duck Demands," we learn that a potential duck-sitter must live in a home with no cats or dogs and no "ferrets or other clawed or toothy animals of any kind." The duck-sitter's home must have a "calm, secure yard" and an "aquatic environment," among other things. Abby's mind starts racing right away as she finds ways to make her home eligible for a visit from Max. Eventually, she realizes that her classmate and new next door neighbor Noah is also excitedly, if quietly, preparing for a visit from Max. As the competition escalates Abby finds ways around her mother's need for tidiness, she convinces the reluctant Mrs Melvino with her extensive, well photographed folder of duck accommodations that her home is best. Despite Noah's best efforts, when Mrs Melvino asks him to take some new pictures of the cement duck pond he built in his backyard without his sisters' Barbies in it, he can't meet her requirements.
Abby happily takes Max home for a duck sleepover and even persuades her parents to let him in the house for story time. However, things don't go quite as she expected and, in the end, it is Noah, messy, sloppy, late-for-school, curious Noah who saves the day.
Duck for a Day is generously (almost every page has a picture!) illustrated by Rudge throughout, her gentle artwork rounding out McKinaly's rich descriptions of Abby, Noah, Max and Mrs Melvino. The suspense and tension are never too great, even at the most dire moments of the book, making this a perfect for sensitive readers. Also, at 90 mostly illustrated pages, Duck for a Day is special for being the rare book that is slightly easier than the average second grade reading level book, more like a Stink book by Megan McDonald and Peter Reynolds than a more difficult Daisy Dawson book by Steve Voake and Jessica Messerve. This is definitely a book to bring home!