Waddell, Martin. Farmer Duck. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Book Review.

Click here to buy Farmer Duck

This is the story of a hard working duck who does all the farm chores while the lazy farmer lays in bed reading the newspaper and eating chocolates. The only contribution the farmer gives is to call out periodically, “How goes the work?” To which the duck responds “Quack!” Finally the exhausted duck gains the sympathy of the other animals who drive out the farmer. From that point on all the animals pitch in to help on the farm.

I found the realistic illustrations of animals an odd juxtaposition to their behavior. Animals bring in the hay, gather the eggs, do the ironing and the dishes, saw the word and plant the garden. The duck even brings breakfast in bed, including a sundae with a cherry and little umbrella, to the farmer. As with all Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations, the soft watercolors are realistic and detailed, down to the armpit hair on the big bellied farmer. Although they are quite humorous at times, they  give the story a sensation of sweetness.

The story seems to be a variation on The Little Read Hen. The reader feels pity for the overworked duck and disgusted with the lazy farmer. When the other farm animals decide to support the deck, the reader is happy to see the pajama clad farmer driven down the lane, through the fields, over the hill, and never to return.

The double spread last page reads, “Then mooing and baaing and clucking and quacking, they all set to work on their farm.” I would’ve liked something more. Perhaps a suggestion of what the duck no longer had to do: dishes, ironing, and breakfast in bed for example. Does she still gather the hens eggs? Is the cow milked? How have the chores changed? Now that the duck has so much help, does she have time to relax or play?



Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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