Review posted July 14, 2013.
Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, Illinois, 2012. First published in the United Kingdom in 2011. 104 pages.
Good beginning chapter books aren’t easy to find. There’s an art to writing an interesting story while keeping the language simple. The situations need to be recognizable in a child’s life, yet the characters need to be unusual enough to feel true-to-life.
Lulu and the Duck in the Park walks that balance, which is no surprise coming from Hilary McKay, the author of the brilliant books about the quirky Casson family.
Lulu was famous for animals. Her famousness for animals was known throughout the whole neighborhood.
Animals mattered more to Lulu than anything else in the world. All animals, from the sponsored polar bear family that had been her best Christmas present, to the hairiest unwanted spider in the school coat room.
Lulu’s teacher is not as big an animal lover as she is, so when Lulu lets her dog follow her to school, Mrs. Holiday is not pleased. When Lulu prompts the class to think of all the animals their class guinea pig might like to have visit, Mrs. Holiday makes it very clear that if any more animals visit, the guinea pig is likely to be traded for the stick insects in the next classroom.
So – when the class goes to the park and sees two dogs disturb all the duck nests, the reader is not surprised when Lulu rescues an egg about to roll onto the sidewalk. We also aren’t surprised that Lulu doesn’t want to tell her teacher about it. But Lulu and that egg do have some surprises in store for us!
This excellent transitional chapter book manages to reflect a child’s world, while achieving a story that is anything but trite.