Five weeks ago, two ducks swooped into our garden as we were playing with our daughter on the swing, one almost touching the top of her head as he landed on the lawn, quacking loudly. The next day, after the male had patrolled up and down the grass, we saw that the female was resting in our flowerbed. When she got up briefly to change position we saw several pale blue eggs under her in what was clearly a nest.
For four weeks our resident duck sat in the flowerbed. We became something of experts in mallard nesting, including the rules on what not to do, and kept our garden time to a minimum so as not to disturb her.
Two days ago, ten fluffy ducklings emerged from their shells, and yesterday they completed a daring departure - crossing under our hedge to next door, then beneath a fence on the other side and on into a garden beyond where we think a pond awaits. At one point, one duckling was left behind by its mother and nine siblings, only for them to all return when they heard its plaintive cries for rescue (this high drama observed by our transfixed three year old from her bedroom window).
Unsurprisingly, stories featuring eggs and ducks have become
popular choices in recent days. Below is a review of one of our favourites.
Hattie Peck by Emma Levey, published by Top That Publishing
This is a delightful and heartwarming tale of nurture, family and the value of overcoming adversity. Hattie Peck is a chicken who loves eggs. She had laid just one egg herself, which hadn't hatched. She was sad, longing for more eggs. One day she decides she will make it her mission to rescue as many abandoned eggs as she can.
So begins a perilous journey, over crashing waves, up mountains, across rooftops and even through a blazing fire. In one very memorable scene she appears soaring in a hang glider over a Manhattan-esque skyline in search of lonely and left behind eggs.
Finally, with eggs of all sizes and colours piled high on a raft she gets a tow from an ocean liner and heads for home. The final page reveals an astonishing array of hatchlings that have emerged, including a flamingo, a platypus, a crocodile and a snake, all of whom receive Hattie Peck's unequivocal love. Adorably, she is busy knitting, with most of the brood already wrapped up warm in bobble hats, jumpers and scarves, made to fit their many shapes and sizes.
Emma Levey's illustrations form a colourful tapestry of high energy pages, accompanied by a strong narrative packed with verbs and adjectives that match the scale of her adventure. Her use of alliteration works very effectively ("Hattie Peck decided it was time to return her colossal clutch back to the coop", "she dived to the deepest depths"). We'll be sure to seek out the next instalment, 'Hattie Peck: The Journey Home' which was published earlier this year.
P.S. Another 'egg-cellent' picturebook we've reviewed already is Emily Gravett's 'The Odd Egg'.