________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009



It’s Useful to Have a Duck.
It’s Useful to Have a Boy.

Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2009.
32 pp., accordion board, $10.00.
ISBN 978-0-88899-927-6.

Preschool / Ages 1-3.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***½ /4

It’s Useful to Have a Duck is not a board book in the ordinary sense. Firstly, it’s not a book with pages that can be turned. Instead, the pages are linked in an accordion fold design. Secondly, It’s Useful to Have a Duck is actually two 16 page “books” in one. The main “title” story is told in a brief text from the perspective of a little boy who finds what appears to be a rubber duck. Over the next seven double pages, the little boy employs the duck in a number of ways: as a rocking horse, hat, whistle or straw, nose, towel and finally as a bathtub plug.

internal art

    However, when young readers/viewers reach what should be the book’s back cover, they find another front “cover” bearing a new title, It’s Useful to Have a Boy. Now, the story is retold from the duck’s perspective. Whereas the boy said:

Now I ride him
like a rocking horse

from the duck’s perspective, the same scene results in a different interpretation:

Now he rubs
my back.

internal art

    And so the story is told again by the duck, and, whereas the boy’s telling concluded with the duck’s being used as a bathtub plug substitute, the duck just saw the drain as “my little sleeping hole.” Design-wise, the text is placed on the left page of each pair of facing pages with the very simple cartoon-like illustrations occupying the rectos while sometime spilling over to create a double-page spread. The illustrations are exactly the same in both “books’ with the boy’s story being told on a yellow background and the duck’s being placed on a blue one. A slipcase is provided to house the “book.”

     It’s Useful to Have a Duck/It’s Useful to Have a Boy is a fun read, and the work could be used in language arts classes with an older audience to examine the concept of point of view in storytelling. The only small criticism relates to the duck’s response to being used “for a nose” by the boy. From the duck’s perspective, it’s “I pretend to be a gargoyle.” Given the “book’s” very young intended audience, the word “gargoyle” is certainly beyond their experience level.

     Isol is the nom de plume of Marisol Misenta, an Argentinian illustrator and author of children's books.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM’s editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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