Welcome literary wayfarers! I have something special for you today. Once every so often, a picture book comes along that is as visually appealing as it is moving, as lyrical in prose as it is engaging in content. The Duck and the Darklings is just such a book. The book is the product of another successful and inspiring collaboration between Glenda Millard (who I have mentioned on the blog before, here) and Stephen Michael King, and as soon as I heard about it, I put it on my “must buy that soon” radar. Thanks to the delightful cake-eating competition-purveyors at Allen & Unwin however, I was lucky enough to win a copy, sparking my admiration for the book and the post that you are now
skimming reading with great care and attention.
Peterboy and his grandfather live among the Darklings in a hole in the ground in the land of Dark, below the ruined world above. Peterboy longs to bring some light to his grandfather’s life and in his search he finds Idaduck. He brings the broken duck to his grandfather and together they set about healing the creature. When Idaduck is ready to leave them, the Darklings shine the lights from their candle-hats to show her the way and in doing so, discover that Idaduck has brought them something they needed more than anything – hope in the power of healing.
The themes in this book are familiar to fans of Millard’s work – hope, caring for others and finding joy in tiny, ordinary moments – but she has certainly outdone herself this time in creating a story dependent on so much fantasy world-building in such a small package. This book feels like an epic fantasy condensed onto a post-it note, with peaks and lulls, hope, sadness and inevitability perfectly paced across 32 pages. The prose is exquisitely lyrical, with a natural rhythm that provides the dreamlike quality underpinning the story. King’s illustrations provide the visual realisation of Millard’s words and his familiar style perfectly conveys the gloominess of the Darklings’ underground home and the curiousity and hopefulness of Peterboy. Rather than saying too much more about it, I’ll give you some examples:
He has also inspired Mad Martha to start crocheting a hat like Peterboy’s. Maybe without the candle though, despite it’s undisputed usefulness.
If you can get your paws, claws or hands on a copy of this book, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. For my money, I think it’s one of those rare treasures that will do more for the adults reading it than the mini-fleshlings – but I’m sure they’ll love it just as much.
Until next time,