Thursday, October 29, 2009

Edward Lear's The Duck and the Kangaroo - a feast for the eyes (ages 4 - 8)

Jane Wattenberg has created a feast for the eyes in her new picture book of Edward Lear's nonsense song The Duck and The Kangaroo.  Wattenberg uses eye-popping photo-collage techniques to create a vibrant book, where the images truly match Lear's creative folly.

The Duck and the Kangaroo
written by Edward Lear
illustrated by Jane Wattenberg
NY: Greenwillow Books, 2009.
ages 4 - 8
A duck looks out his window and longs for friendship and adventure.  So he says to the passing Kangaroo, "My life is a bore in this nasty pond, / And I long to go out in the world beyond! / I wish I could hop like you! / said the Duck to the Kangaroo."  A silly and sweet friendship develops, as the duck persuades the Kangaroo to give him a ride into the wide world beyond.

While Lear's verse is fun and silly, the illustrations are what make this book snap, crackle and pop.  Wattenberg collages photographs of a real kangaroo and duck into a variety of almost surrealist settings.  She adds layer of exotic flora and fauna drawn by 19th century Naturalists, including Lear himself, Charles Darwin, John James Audubon and many others.  On top of this are wonderfully quirky touches, like hand-knitted socks shaped to the duck's webbed feet.  My favorite aspect of the illustrations are the comically expressive eyes of the duck and the kangaroo.  As I understand it, Wattenberg photo-collaged eyes of an owl and a dog to create these oversized, yet realistic eyes.

My children loved this unique approach to illustrating a picture book.  My 5 year old kept asking me questions about who wrote the words and who made the pictures.  This is the book that really made her think about the writing process and the artwork.  "Mommy, can the person who wrote this change the words?  Did they make the pictures, too?"

The artwork is wonderful.  Take a look at HarperCollin's website to preview this book - they have a full preview available.

Poetry Friday today is being hosted today by Jennie at Biblio File. There are lots of great links there!

The review copy was sent by the publisher.  Stop by your local bookstore to find a copy, or find it at your local library.

This books is available online at Amazon. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.


  1. Hi! I just found your blog! Sounds like we're on the same wavelength (helping parents find great books for kids). I'm just getting started with my blog Ink Spells:

    I've put a link to your blog on mine, to give parents another resource. If you don't mind, I think I'll look through some of your old postings and see if there are some books you've reviewed applicable to the age range my blog targets (ages 8-12).

  2. Yes, Jane and her work are AMAZING! This book is so layered--keep looking and keep finding new things to deepen the enjoyment.

  3. Hi! I just posted on my Ink Spells blog a list of some of your reviews, plus links back here for more!
    Thanks again for sharing!