Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: “Lulu was famous for animals,” is the opening sentence of the engaging Lulu and the Duck in the Park (Albert Whitman 2012), the first in an irresistible new series for early readers. Fortunately for Lulu, her mother’s rule is “the more the merrier as long as Lulu cleans up after them.” Unfortunately for Lulu her long-suffering teacher is only a fan of animals “in the wild. Perfectly happy but a long way off.” Mrs. Holiday has allowed a guinea pig to live in the classroom and the class responds enthusiastically one day when Lulu suggests that the guinea pig really needs to have a friend. Mrs. Holiday has been teaching for a long time and she can read her class like a well-loved book. She calls a quick emergency meeting and makes it very clear that if ANY new animal arrives she will trade the guinea pig for the Class Two stick insects!
The horror of this pronouncement hangs over the class and even Lulu is terrified of crossing Mrs. Holiday. But what’s a girl to do when rampaging dogs tear up the duck nests in the park just as Class Three is crossing through? The warm egg that rolls up against Lulu’s foot just HAS to be rescued, doesn’t it? I’ll leave the rest of this funny, sweet story for you to enjoy. And I promise you will enjoy it. Hilary McKay’s knack for delighting all ages of readers is just as evident here as in the wonderful Casson family and Exiles series. Young readers will quickly realize that this is a writer who understands exactly what it is like to be a kid and the adults in their lives will instantly know that this is a writer who knows what it is like to be around kids. What a gift! I adore Lulu – she is me and my sons in print but I may be even more tickled my Mrs. Holiday – a gem of a teacher we’d like all our children to have.
Cindy: Have I told you about the time that Lynn carried a spider from our library in the CENTER of the building all the way outside to deposit it safely in the grass rather than smashing it in a tissue like I would have done? Call me cruel (or lazy), but I’m guessing a bird or something ate the spider within minutes anyway. Well, I might have left this book and it’s animal-loving Lulu to Lynn and the focus group, but for the fact that Hilary McKay wrote it. I couldn’t resist–even when Lulu says she loves all animals even “the hairiest unwanted spider in the school coat room.”
But it’s the classroom depiction in general that I love. After Charlie’s bloody nose is given an ice pack:
“…all good things come to an end. Bloodletting is over. This is now math. Who can remember what we were talking about yesterday?”
“Perimeters!” said Mrs. Holiday, writing the word on the board. “And where would we find a perimeter? You all knew yesterday!”
Class Three shook their heads. What they knew on one day had nothing to do with what they remembered the next.
Priscilla Lamont’s illustrations are just the thing this funny and heartwarming series needs and it’s nice to have a multicultural cast, including the main character Lulu. She draws a darn cute guinea pig too! I can’t wait for Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, due out March 1st. I have a greater affinity for dogs than I do for spiders.