Monday, October 11, 2010

Quackenstein Hatches a Family

By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Brian T. Jones
$15.95, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A grouchy duck needs someone to love, but can he learn to love a beast whose parts are too hideous to bear?

In this adorable, rhyming read-aloud, a duck named Quack decides he's had enough with being a hermit at the zoo and hatches a plan to create a family of his own.

But then his plan takes a scary turn and Quack finds himself running for his life from a creature with mixed-up parts.

Will it bring about his ruin? Or will Quack discover that sometimes it's actually pretty great to be chased down?

Quack longs for affection, but he's grown very bitter watching all of the other zoo animals frolic about in their packs and gaggles.

It doesn't seem fair and you can tell he's worn out from anguishing about it.

His eye sockets are wrinkly, his eyes are bulgy and when he goes back to his shack, he wears his loneliness like a heavy coat, slumping into his nest.

Then one day he bumps his head into a sign in a secluded corner of the zoo that points to a pile of homeless eggs.

Seeing no one around, he creeps up and cackles, "I'll adopt."

Under the cloak of his wings, he steals off to his shack with one of the eggs, his eyes crazed by the possibilities it holds.

Once inside, he tucks the egg into his leafy nest then stares at it transfixed, dreaming of a little duck of his own.

Gently resting the tip of his beak over the egg, he calls it "ducky-poo" and promises the unborn duck that he'll never be neglected.

"Then one dark and stormy night, / The hour had arrived. / Quack heard a crack -- / He stumbled back / And shouted / It's Alive!"

But as the baby emerges from the shell, it looks nothing like a duck. "The thing had fur / And legs with spurs / And some poor beaver's tail."

Soon, the baby has stabbed its way out and is lurching at Quack.

Crazy scared, Quack loops around the zoo looking for a hiding spot until he spots a mama heron.

He ducks behind her and cowers under his wing, but the creature leers and the babies scream.

"Quack shushed the rowdy heron hedge / But birds just ran off blind / They fled in shock / Toward cuddling crocs -- / Soon all were intertwined."

On the next two pages, lightening flashes down and you see silhouettes of Quack looking back in horror and the little monster coming up from behind him.

Quack is running so fast his legs aren't touching the ground and in his haste to get away, he's bowled over a family of hares in the middle of a group hug.

Fearing what could be next, Quack darts into a cave on the next page. But don't look now, the monster is blocking Quack's escape!

With shoulders squared and claws bared, it leaps at Quack and…squeezes him as tightly as it can?

Could it be this scary creature is not a monster after all?

In this irresistible rhyme, a foolish, adorable grump discovers that love comes in all shapes and species, and that sometimes all it takes to be happy is to let yourself be caught.

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