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Friday, March 2, 2012

French Ducks in Venice, written by Garret Freymann-Weyr and illustrated by Erin McGuire. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 8 and up

"Georges is not actually fond of Sebastian. He believes that Sebastian Sterling does not appreciate how lucky he is to have two French ducks living right outside his door. But Georges knows how much Polina loves Sebastian. When he takes his short trips to meet the people who watch his movies, she is always a little sad."

This is Garret Freymann-Weyr's first picture book and I hope that it will not be her last. She uses her gift for language to tell the story of a young woman, her paramour and two ducks who live in a canal close to her house. This is not 'the' Venice; rather, it is Venice, California. These are not 'French' ducks, they are cormorants. Polina is not as happy as she looks on the front cover of the book; she has just been left behind by her boyfriend Sebastian. The ending is not eternally happy, but the story works for me!

Georges and Cecile, the title's 'French Ducks' are not happy when Sebastian leaves their darling Polina behind, and Georges determines to find her something new to make her happy again:

"Instead of finding Sebastian Sterling, who had to go and is not to be found, Georges decides that he will find a present for Polina. A pretty, perfect present for his princess. It will mean he must fly near and far, and high and low."

He brings the 'pretty, perfect present' to Polina, who remains sad. Cecile admonishes that Polina must be sad before she can be happy once more. Georges is certain that it is the lack of a prince that has her so upset:

""But she has no prince," Georges says. "How will she ever be happy again?"
"Maybe she will find a new prince," Cecile says. "When she is done being sad."
"When will she be done?" Georges asks.
"I don't know," Cecile says.
"I will start looking for her new prince," Georges says. "For when she is happy again."
"Ducks do not find princes," Cecile says. "Princesses find them.""

I like this modern fairy tale that touches on love, loss, and finding happiness. The ducks are loyal and true friends whose concern for Polina is admirable, if a little emotional. They want only what is best for their princess; and learn that it is perhaps her own lot in life to find just that.

It takes time, but Polina does find happiness...and it isn't with a prince.

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