Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay (2012)

Lulu has many interesting and wonderful qualities, but what she’s known for is her love of animals and her huge collection of them. One day, while her elementary school class visits the park, she gets hold of a duck egg that needs protection. Despite her teacher’s blatant dislike of animals, Lulu takes the egg back to class with her. All is well, until... the egg suddenly starts to hatch!

This chapter book is by Hilary McKay, the author of the Casson family series, the first book of which I reviewed last year. Since it’s for a younger audience, this book deviates quite a bit from the style of the series books, but it’s every bit as well-written as McKay’s books for older readers. Lulu, whose personality reminds me a lot of Ramona Quimby and Clementine, is the kind of good-hearted, bold character kids really relate to and root for. Her predicament with the duck is just the kind of thing that makes five to seven year olds laugh, but it also appeals to that common interest in rescuing animals that leads so many kids to say they want to be veterinarians.

Though I was somewhat puzzled by the class trips to the park and a bit uncomfortable with how strict and mean Lulu’s teacher seemed to be, I don’t think these are true flaws in the story. Rather, I think they demonstrate how attuned McKay is the minds of kids. Children do often see strict adults as simply cruel, and I doubt kids will notice anything unusual about a few extra field trips. In fact, reading about walking through the park is probably more fun than reading about regular classroom activities.

An obvious companion for this book would be Duck for a Day by Australian author, Meg McKinlay. I also think it would be a nice tie-in for a science project involving hatching chicks.

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