Underdog Duckling, The

12 June 2019

The Underdog Duckling
by Sally Meadows
Published by Your Nickle’s Worth Publishing
Review by Amanda Zimmerman
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-30-7

How do you get through a time in your life when everything seems upside down? Is it possible to overcome adversity and grow through the challenges? Sally Meadows, a former scientist and educator from Saskatoon, brings us an answer in her powerful and heartwarming story of a little boy facing his mother’s illness. When she is moved into the hospital and his dad is devoting his time to keeping up the farm, Quinn moves to the big city with his grandfather. He has a hard time settling in at his new school and it is only at a nearby pond where he finds an escape. When he witnesses the bad treatment of a duckling by the other birds on the water, Quinn feels a special kinship with The Underdog Duckling.

“Why don’t the other ducks like the duckling? And why weren’t its parents taking care of it?” It is through this animal’s trials that Quinn learns how resilient he can be when things are all going wrong. Sally Meadows instantly grabs her readers with the affirming line “Never stop being you” and follows with a tale that manages to be both sweet and sensitively written. By having Quinn experience the duckling’s hard times, she takes the delicate subject of illness uncertainty and thoughtfully addresses it for young readers. She also includes discussion questions at the end, providing a way for children and families to delve into the topics of underdogs and water birds more thoroughly.

However, what adds that extra spirit to Sally’s story is Ukrainian-Canadian artist Olha Tkachenko’s illustrations. The Little Big Me company founder brings her signature bright hues and shading to each page, adding a engaging mix of realism and the whimsical. Her textures -ripples on the water, the softness of a blanket-practically beg to be touched. Whether personally experiencing an emotionally difficult situation or simply wanting to share a honest, conversation starting book at storytime, The Underdog Duckling is a great addition to any family’s bookshelf.


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