There are a handful of early readers that have a special place in my heart - Frog & Toad , Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant (a multiple Newbery winner) and Mark Teague, Dav Pilkey's Dragon series, Elephant & Piggie, of course, and James Marshall's fabulous George and Martha books. And, as of 2011, Tim Egan's Dodsworth books (my review here) have edged their way into this small space. A good early reader is all about the characters (usually an odd couple) and especially about the bonds of friendship that connect them and the frequent absurdities that threaten to pull them apart. Egan's Dodsworth series has all this and by the page-full!
Dodsworth in Tokyo begins with Dodsworth and the duck gliding over Mount Fuji. Dodsworth is a little nervous because Japan is a land of "customs and manners and order." And, as we all know by the fifth book in the series, the duck is not good at these things. Dodsworth does his best to impress upon the duck how important it is to behave and follow customs, which is a sign of respect. The duck does his best, with only a few missteps, mostly because he discovers two things that are infinitely fascinating - the kendama and wagashi.
A visit to Yoyogi Park introduces the duck to the kendama, a ball on a string that, when done successfully, gets tossed onto the stick it is attached to. When Dodsworth and the duck discover that the little girl playing with a kendama has left it behind, they take it and plan to return it to her the next day. The next day, the pair pass a shop filled with brightly colored sweets - wagashi - and the duck is mesmerized. Finally, Dodsworth has found a carrot on a stick that he can tempt the duck with.
While there are a few bumps along the way (fascinated by koi, the duck falls off a bridge and into a river where he must be rescued because he can't swim) there are bright spots, too. The duck, it turns out, loves sushi - so much that he does not misbehave in the restaurant. And the travelers make is through the Museum of the Imperial Collections without incident, mostly because the duck hands over the kendama and imagines piles of wagashi on the ancient vases and plates. In fact, others even comment on what a well behaved duck Dodsworth has!
Just when you wonder if the duck has truly mastered his impulses or if he will explode (or implode) after being well behaved for so long, the two make a visit to the temple at Asakusa, which promises more good sightseeing and pleasant behavior on the duck's part. However, it is time for the other shoe to drop. It's just not the shoe you were expecting! Egan does a subtle and masterful job of wrapping up his story in a way that remains true to the duck and the plot of Dodsworth in Tokyo.
More Dodsworth & the duck . . .
Source: Review Copy