Tall tales in pictures

'BOING-ing' ducks and pesky brothers

The Rubber-Legged Ducky By John G. Keller, Illus. by Henry Cole Harcourt, 32 pp., $16 Ages 4-8

The world of children’s picture books is full of stories about appreciating each other’s differences. But thanks to John G. Keller’s inventive text and Henry Cole’s hilariously expressive illustrations, The Rubber-Legged Ducky transcends the pedantic and offers up a fun and funny tale about why different is good. The book’s hero – a duck with a strange, boing-ing leg – is hatched after Mama Duck unwisely consumes a rubber band. But unlike in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, this waterfowl doesn’t have to wait for adulthood to prove his worth. There’s the typical chorus of naysayers, of course. But Five (as he’s called) wastes no time in putting the prejudiced barn animals in their places. The only downside to this terrific tale? Watch out as the word BOING! becomes enthusiastically incorporated into your preschooler’s vocabulary.

The narrator in Mail Harry to the Moon! – a cartoonishly rendered unhappy preschooler – wants to know just what, exactly, is so great about his younger brother, Harry (by Robie H. Harris; illustrated by Michael Emberly; Little, Brown; 40 pp.; $16.99; ages 3-6) . After all, before Harry came along, there was no one else to compete for Grandma’s lap. There was no one to slobber on beloved stuffed animals, and no one to wake up the house with his wailing. But the narrator’s plans for getting rid of Harry (which range from sticking Harry in the zoo to the titular “Mail Harry to the moon!”) are interrupted when Harry actually disappears. Now what’s a big brother to do? Michael Emberley’s comic book-style illustrations bring this tale of sibling rivalry roaring to life with energy and humor. And big and little brothers (and sisters) alike will smile as text and pictures gently turn Harry from a foe into a friend.

Jenny Sawyer reviews children's literature for the Monitor.

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