“Lulu and the Duck in the Park” by Hilary McKay

“Lulu and the Duck in the Park” (Albert Whitman 2012) by Hilary McKay is a perfect chapter (early middle 13178600grade) book from an author who understands how to make both kids and adults laugh.

The story begins on a school field trip and moves into the classroom, making this a great read aloud in kindergarten through third grades. Especially if it happens to be spring and even more especially if you happen to be hatching eggs in your classroom.

Lulu loves to jump off swings at the highest point so she can fly for a brief moment. She loves animals—furry ones, feathery ones, stick-insect ones. Her teacher doesn’t.

Mellie loses everything. When she loses her sweater, Lulu gives hers to Mellie.

Lulu and Mellie are best friends and cousins. The book begins, “Lulu was famous for animals. Her famousness for animals was known throughout the whole neighborhood.” Sentences are simply constructed and ingenious repetition makes for humor rather than monotony.

“Every few minutes Mrs. Holiday glared over her shoulder at Lulu to make sure she knew she was still in trouble. Every few minutes Lulu looked unhappily down at the ground to show that she did.”

The book is sweetly British. The children are in Class Three, and often in a muddle. The Britishness is understandable and will give American kids a view of a slightly different school culture—but only slightly different.

On to the plot. While Class Three is eating lunch in the park, two big black dogs race through the park trampling the ducks’ nests and wreaking havoc. Lulu secretly grabs one rolling egg and keeps it warm. You can guess what happens, but McKay tells it so delightfully, it’s brand new.

At the end of the day11816538 Mrs. Holiday is quizzing, comforting, and convincing her class to leave behind the day’s bad memory of trampled nests. We are going to move on because…? she prompts. Henry responds, “Because the ducks are all dead.” “(The ducks are not all dead).” Please, Good Teachers, read this to your class.

The prequel story, “Lulu and the Dog from the Sea,” (2011) is every bit as good. Lulu and Mellie are on holiday at the seaside with Lulu’s family. The dog catchers are after this menacing, thieving, mangy escape artist (dog). Hilary McKay takes us on a heartwarming hilarious ride to its guessable and satisfying conclusion.

 

Patricia Hruby Powell is a nationally touring speaker, dancer, storyteller,  librarian, and children’s book author.

 

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7 comments on ““Lulu and the Duck in the Park” by Hilary McKay
  1. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    I just brushed cat hairs from my keyboard and thought that I’m a bit like LuLu, famous for my love of animals. Thanks, Patricia, for this wonderful review! I am an enthusiastic fan of Hilary McKay’s work for slightly older readers and am happy to be introduced to these books for younger kids. I have several granddaughters who are the perfect ages for these stories.

  2. Sheila, you’ll love these. I also love the Casson Family books. I first read Saffy’s Angel and kept going. Hilary McKay is astounding. Thanks for responding.

  3. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    One of my granddaughters is named Saffron. Her mother loved Saffy’s Angel and her dad liked a British comedy TV show with a teen character named Saffron. It was the only name they both loved. She is always called Saffron and isn’t quite old enough (she’s eight) for the Casson Family. (Plus she is extremely skeptical of any book recommended by her author grandmother or her school-librarian mother.)

  4. hahaha. One day she’ll see your and her mother’s wisdom. And she’ll call herself Saffy when her friends just start doing it naturally. Don’t you think?

  5. Dorothy Martirano says:

    Beautiful, Patricia. I really like the crisp style and simple sentence construction in the first part of the review, which seems to mirror the style of the book itself.

  6. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    It’ll be interesting to see what sort of books Saffron likes as she gets older. Now she loves reading the Junie B. Jones books aloud to her mother, and they both have a good laugh. Will she be called Saffy? Only time will tell. I agree with Dorothy, a lovely review!

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