Surprised by Joy (and a feathered fowl): The Duck and The Darklings…

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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.

the duck and the darklings

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:

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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,

Bruce

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Read it if…: The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk

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Afternoon all….every so often a children’s author comes along who I suspect is sneakily writing for adults under the guise of writing for children. Glenda Millard, author of the Kingdom of Silk series, is one of these.  She is sneaky in another way too, in that she ALWAYS manages to publish new books in this series without me knowing.  Such is the circumstance in which I discovered The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk, which is number six in the series.

For those unfamiliar with Millard’s work, she has an incredible ability to discuss sad and scary issues, including the death of a child, Alzheimer’s disease, and the difficulties faced by children in care, in a way that is both accessible to children and deeply touching to adults.  In this particular offering, Saffron, the youngest of the Silk girls, is experiencing the fear that comes with unexplained symptoms of illness.

Read it if:

* you wish that your childhood had been played out against the backdrop of a large family, a sprawling backyard and special connections between loved ones

* you have ever experienced the fear of facing a problem that you felt was too big for you to overcome

* you are prepared to fall in love with the whimsy and innocence of Stephen Michael King’s beautiful illustrations

* there is an old (or young, or young-at-heart) hippy hiding somewhere inside you

*you like books that are packed with heart; that remain with you after reading; that transport you to a better place and can be read in one sitting

This series has grown to become one of my all time favourites – librarians and teachers, in particular, you will certainly find something to entertain and engage your class with this series of books.  And for adults, you may find yourself experiencing some healing you didn’t even know you needed….

For those interested, the other books in the series, in order are:

The Naming of Tishkin Silk; Layla, Queen of Hearts; Perry Angel’s Suitcase; All the Colours of Paradise; Plum Puddings and Paper Moons

Until next time,

Bruce