What is it about ducks in picture books that always seem so appealing? Are ducks really so unusually clever as portrayed in these books? Or charismatic? Or just sweet and fluffy? I think all of the above is true! I found myself reading a pile of duck featured picture books to my son one night when he randomly brought me a small pile that included Duck for President and Duck on a Bike. And then I started the list in earnest.
Turns out that it’s quite hard to find 10 excellent duck picture books so I had to add Little Bear, technically an easy reader to get 10. I hope that is OK with you! I guess what is stranger is that I happen to own most of these books and yet, no one in my family enjoys eating duck. Maybe that is what happens when you attach to an anthropomorphic character as appealing as a duck. My family also does not like to eat chicken. I wonder if we have 10 excellent picture books featuring chickens … stay tuned! How about you? What animal picture books are you reading over and over? Dogs, cats, mice, ducks, chickens?… Please share your favorites!
Favorite Ducks in Children’s Books
10. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
A classic tale for Bostonians and any visitors with children about the ducklings that come to live at the Boston Public Garden. There are bronze sculptures at the Boston Public Garden, worn shiny on top by the bottoms of visiting children who love to sit and pose on them.
9. Captain Duck by Jez Alborough
A cute rhyming book that is visually unusual because it has multiple illustrations on each page much like a cartoon strip. “Captain” Duck ends up accidentally taking a boat with animal friends out to sea, but all turns out well in the end though it’s clear that Duck is a bit of a scamp!
8. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
I do love the Beatrix Potter books though not all my kids had the patience to sit through these gentle woodland creature stories. Jemima Puddle-Duck gives ducks a bad rap as “simpletons” so easy to trick by foxes but that is OK. I guess back then ducks were not as sharp, clever, or funny as they are now.
7. Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic
Duck decides not to fly south and turns up at human Irene’s house to spend the winter with her and all her other pets. Though Duck hogs the remote control, cooks strange food for the other animals and is annoying, everyone misses him when he leaves to return to his flock. When the next winter rolls around, Irene and the animals are hoping Duck will be at the door. Duck is … with the rest of his flock!
6. Little Bear’s Friend by Elsa Homeland Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
I love the Little Bear series and have read it repeatedly to my three kids when they were small. I never get tired of them and these are the best books ever for bedtime snuggles. Duck is one of Little Bear’s good friends whose posse also includes Cat, Hen, Owl, a little girl named Emily, and her doll Lucy. Though the cartoon of this series makes Duck look like a ditzy blonde, Duck is really not like that in the book series! The reference to ducks is in chapter two, titled “Duck, Babysitter.”
5. Do Like a Duck Does! by Judy Hindley
A wily fox pretending to be a duck in order to get dinner gets tricked so there is a happy ending!
4. John Phillip Duck by Patricia Polacco
I love Patricia Polacco and this book is based on a true story of a duck at a hotel that gets trained (and the brood as well) to parade through the hotel ending up in the fountain. Descendants of the original duck, I’m told, continue the tradition today!
3. The Story of Ping by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese
An old-fashioned story about a flock of Peking ducks on a riverboat in the Yangtze River. Ping accidentally goes on an adventure when he lags behind his huge extended family but all ends well (though the author never exactly reveals where these ducks are headed for and might I mention the famous Peking Duck dish?!)
2. Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
The ducks in Doreen Cronin’s funny books are always smarter than the farmer. That is just the way ducks are these days. In this funny story, Duck demonstrates the electoral process (much like Sarah Palin) by successfully running for a series of offices until he ends up in the Oval Office but it turns out that farm life is a better life than the president. That’s ok with Duck though!
1. Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
This is one of my favorite David Shannon books and we have most of them! Duck gets a clever idea to ride a bike and it turns out to be fun for all the barnyard animals. Way to go Duck!
Honorable Mention Favorite Ducks in Picture Books
I’m a Duck by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Told in rollicking rhyme, duck is scared to swim in the pond. After soliciting the advice of Owl, the duck works on its confidence, practicing first in a puddle. Finally, the duck is ready to overcome its fear and jump into the pond. This is the perfect picture book for any child who needs a boost to try something scary. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Catherine of Story Snug suggests Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who finds ducks in picture books to be exceptionally humorous!
Duck is overworked because he has the bad luck to live with a lazy old farmer who spends the day in bed, while he does all the work. Duck doesn’t complain, but his friends — the hens, cow, and sheep — decide they have to intervene. I feel like this Duck is the grandfather or father of Duck in Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. It’s a similar story but the newer generation rebels in an entirely different way. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Duck in Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Several children’s book bloggers suggested duck. Though duck isn’t the star, he still manages to stand out and then gets a breakout role when he runs for President in Duck for President. His charisma is undeniable in this funny picture book! Erica of What Do We Do All Day? agrees, “… ducks are naturally comedic. In Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type, the duck is by far the most memorable character.”
Story Snug loves Mucky Duck by Sally Grindley. She says, “This was one of the very first picture books that I read to my daughter. Mucky Duck’s messy antics still make us laugh :)”
Picture Book Party also recommends another Marjorie Flack duck picture book, Angus and the Ducks.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.