April 2009

It all depends on how you look at it

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld
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You know when people refer to “a book for all ages?” That usually means they are speaking in clichés. But in the new picture book Duck! Rabbit!, the cliché proves true. I know—I met two fans of the book on a flight to Baltimore last weekend. I was wedged into the middle seat but wanted to get some work done, so I pulled out a copy of Duck! Rabbit! and began reading. I soon realized with joy that the engineering student to my left and the beefy salesman to my right were watching the pages turn and chuckling with delight. They actually wanted me to read it again!

To get an idea of the book’s concept, think back to those pictures from your Psych 101 textbook, the ones that looked like an old hag or a young woman, depending on your perception. Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld have fashioned an utterly captivating riff on those pictures. Readers will see a duck or a rabbit, depending on where their head is.

Thick black ink outlines the duck/rabbit and serves as a visual anchor for the story. The figure morphs as the animals are shown eating, drinking, running and flying, all while the duck/rabbit image holds steady inside those thick black outlines. When I read the book aloud, children giggled and gasped when they realized there was no right answer to the question of the character’s identity. This uncertainty makes the book wonderfully re-readable. The text is easy and accessible for the earliest reader, but the ideas are intellectually satisfying for the adults who want to join the fun. At the end of the story, the illustrator thanks Eric Rohmann, whose My Friend Rabbit is suggested here at many turns. That earlier book would make a lovely companion to this one.

Hop (or swim) and find a Duck! Rabbit! of your very own!

Robin Smith reads books aloud to her second-graders in Nashville, and sometimes to perfect strangers on planes.

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Duck! Rabbit!

Duck! Rabbit!

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld
ISBN 9780811868655

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