MILLARD, Glenda (text) Stephen Michael King (illus.) The Duck and the Darklings Allen & Unwin, 2014 unpaged $24.99 ISBN 9781743312612 SCIS 1649632
Peterboy and Grandpapa live in a hole in the land of Dark. Although Dark is a sorry, spoiled place, their home is built with care and lit by love. All memories of the brighter better place that came before have been ‘disremembered’ except by Grandpapa. When Peterboy returns from his nightly excursions to the finding fields with tales of mysteries he has seen outside, he sees the light of memories past shining in his Grandpapa’s eyes. Searching for a scrap of wonderfulness to keep the light alive, Peterboy finds Idaduck, a broken thing. Grandpapa mends her from top to tail: quack, waddle and wing. She brings much joy until the wind changes, bringing with it wanderlust. Wanting to give the duck a marvellous send-off, the Darklings feast and dance and sing until the dawn reveals a renewed world full of hope for the future.
I read this book with anticipation and wasn’t disappointed. The rich text is to be savoured and read aloud. I loved the evocative imagery conjured by Millard’s whimsical words. The illustrations create an otherworld that is dark but not too scary. The smudgy splattered landscape contrasts with the cartoon-like black and white figures. Later the page is lit by warm yellow, symbolising the warmth and happiness that Idaduck brings, and again when Grandpapa begins to remember. Colourful memories are framed like windows on the past. The new dawn brings blocks of bright colour that shine like stained glass. Recommended for lower primary aged children and above.
reviewed by Sharon Seymour