The Duck and the Darklings – Glenda Millard, Stephan Michael King – Allen & Unwin Australia – Published 1 April 2014
Grandpapa’s eyes shine when he remembers the beauty of the world, long-ago. Peterboy wants to find something wonderful to bring the light to Grandpapa’s eyes and keep it there. What he finds is a duck, wounded and broken, and Grandpapa mends her from top to tail; quack, waddle and wing! This is a triumphant story, for children and adults, about the coming of hope in dark days, the warmth of friendship and the splendour of a new dawn.
This is the first book I will be reviewing as part of my Book Week 2015 summary. The Duck and the Darklings has been nominated for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award in 2015 in the Picture Book of the Year category. You can find the full short list of nominated titles here.
The Duck and the Darklings is a very special picture book, most notably for its creativity. I have read lots of post-apocalyptic young adult books, but never have I come across a post-apocalyptic picture book before now.
Peterboy lives with his Grandpapa. They live underground, away from the ruined world where they only venture to scavenge for lost things. When Peterboy finds an injured duck, he takes her back to his grandfather. Together they mend the duck and she in turn brings happiness and light to Peterboy and Grandpapa, inspiring them to look past their safe hole in the dark for hope for the future.
The illustrations in The Duck and the Darkling are as beautiful as they are unique. Large swarths of black and purple shade the majority of the book, with swirls and splashes of colour in yellow, red and green, purple, orange and pink. Peterboy, Grandpapa, Idaduck and their fellow Darklings stand out, drawn in white with black outlines. The writing style is incredibly poetic. The ideas of where the characters are living now, why and what happened to where they were living before are all cleverly alluded too. There will be much to discuss with young readers about what they think happened and why. There are wonderful words, such as disremembered and spiderling, and nothing is described with one word where two or more can be used. Sticks are fiddlesticks for firewood and collecting water is instead filling billies with trickle.
Aside from its creativity and unique beauty, this book is so well placed for Book Week 2015. The themes of dark and light and hope work so beautifully with this year’s theme Books Light Up Our World, as indeed they do in this time of considering our impact on the world. A wonderful and thought-provoking picture book.
Category: Fiction – Picture Book.
Themes: Social issues, friendship, family, environment, communities, hope and renewal.
Published: 1 April 2014 by Allen & Unwin.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 32 pages.