Ducks Don’t Wear Socks, by John Nedwidek, illustrated by Lee White

This was another random pick off of the library shelves.  We were rushing to leave before the baby turned into a pumpkin (you know…the whiny crabby kind) and I grabbed this off of the top of the stack.  It had several words that baby (18 months at the time) could say, like “duck” and “socks”.  It had illustrations of things he would reliably crow about (a duck, an object with wheels).  It had a female protagonist (baby has been saying “man!” a lot lately, correctly pointing out the males of our species, and telling me what he thinks they are doing…I thought it was time to remind him that females also do things).  It had illustrations and “real” pages (not board-book pages, which the Guy has recently decided are too juvenile for our toddler).  It had all of the basic elements of a book we would read to our kid.
And…it had the extra element of genius.
First, and most importantly, the baby loved it.  A duck?  On a unicycle?!  With socks!?!??!!  DUCKS DON’T WEAR SOCKS!!!!   But – “Cold feet!” he cries as he unicycles by.
Oh, the hilarity.
Second, the hilarity continues!  Duck, with his fly-by-night eyebrows and weirdly rounded beak and head, is perfectly illustrated ridiculousness and Emily is the perfectly serious foil.  Page by page, Duck convinces Emily to relax, laugh, be silly, break some unessential social rules, and be a little eccentric.
Definitely a book to be reread – so that kids can shout out things like “Ducks don’t wear socks!” at all of the places where shouting should be done.  And the obvious humour is perfect for kids as, clearly, ducks don’t wear many things.
As for Emily, well her character is something of a stereotype (more on that, below) and as a former-quiet-introverted-shy-serious child, I’m not pleased.  But I forgive the author because Duck is just so damn clever.
Rating: Solid B+
Reading Ages: 1+.  It’s never too early or too late to teach non-conformity.  Although, realistically, I think the book is good up to kindergarten (for kids to practice reading) and 3ish for being read-to.  I’ve noticed that our guy now is starting to prefer books with more story (i.e. words), which this book doesn’t have much of.
Favourite Words: “Emily laughed so hard that she cried.  Duck laughed so hard that he quacked.”
Only Peeve: Emily is a sad stereotype of seriousness, and I resent that she is portrayed as someone who needs to be changed.  She reads the Big Book of Serious Things.  She learns music and math and watches birds.  She is quiet and studious.  And why shouldn’t she do all of those things and more?!  In a world that touts outgoing rambunctious princess types, I found Emily to be a refreshing little person.  Maybe she needed a bi t more silly in her life, but a female cello-playing nature-loving math whiz who sews up her own giant Duck costume and never wears pink?  Definitely someone I would want to know.

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