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Friday, August 24, 2012

Lulu and the Duck in the Park, written by Hilary McKay and illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. Albert Whitman & Company, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $15.99 ages 6 and up

"This Tuesday - the day after Lulu's dog Sam trailed Lulu to school and Mellie lost her sweater and Class Three learned the very real danger of their guinea pig being swapped for a box of stick insects - the day after all that happened, things were very different and terrible in the park."

Well, I knew that I loved Hilary McKay's writing but I had not seen anything she had written for early readers. So, I began the reading of this recent book with delight and anticipation. I was not disappointed in the least.

Lulu is a 'lulu'. She's a lovely, friendly, young miss with a mind of her own and a passionate love for animals of all types. She is extremely fortunate to have the parents that she has:

"It was lucky for Lulu that her father was famous for peering at the latest arrival and saying, "Hmmm. Well. Ask your Mom." And it was lucky for Lulu that her mother was famous for saying, "The more, the merrier." That was Lulu's mother's law on pets."

On a weekly class visit to the park, chaos arrives with two large and loud dogs who run rampant, tearing up plants, destroying nests, and scaring the ducks that Lulu loves so much. It is her good fortune that she is there when a duck's egg topples from the nest and makes a beeline from the top of the rise to the bottom, threatening sure destruction to its fragile shell. She scoops it up and hides it from her teacher, who has no love for animals of any kind. All is well until the egg cracks and hatches out a beautiful baby duckling while school is still in session.

This is a perfect first chapter book for early readers. The characters are likable and admirable. The action is quick-paced. It's fun and funny, with highly effective and very charming illustrations and will have wide appeal. The reading is a delight and will beg to be revisited by eager fans.

This is what reading should be about for young children wanting more than picture books. You can be sure I will be looking to get copies of other 'Lulu' books to share in workshops and with children this fall.

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