36 Pages Ages: 7 and up
Autobiography of a Duck is just that, the life of one Pekin Duck, not a chick, as told by the duck. Duck hatched and then lived with his siblings and his mother on a farm. Then one day, some humans came along and grabbed all the ducks,throwing them into cages on the back of the truck. They were off on an adventure.
Duck was soon living and working with The Lake Brothers’ Traveling Carnival and Circus. Duck was one of the prizes for the carnival game stick-a-nickel-on-a-plate. That wasn’t the name of the game, but it is what the human had to do. If they could—and many couldn’t because it was rigged—they won a duckling. Duck went home with a little boy.
On the farm, Duck became close with the boy. The young boy would hold Duck and pet him, telling him all sorts of things. They became so close that Duck had a time adjusting when summer ended and school began. Duck also had many friends. His first was Waddles, who he met in the truck the day they left the farm. Waddles was a scruffy little duck who was also tough. He did things his own way, including an escape from the carnival/circus.
There is also Bluebird, a messenger, but it was never really clear the types of messages he delivered—until the end of the book. He and Duck became friends, talking whenever Bluebird had a break. The day Waddles came to visit Duck, Bluebird knew before anyone that Waddles was in bad shape.
Then there is Cat. Cat spends his day prowling the farm looking for his next extra meal. Cat liked to follow Duck, hoping one day to fry him up for lunch. Duck kept an especially close eye on the cat’s whereabouts.
Autobiography of a Duck has no false advertising in it. This is exactly what the title claims, an autobiography of a duck. Now, I have no idea who actually dictated the story for Duck but it is a good story. There is some humor, a little pathos, and some adventure. For a Duck, who is named after a famous cartoon duck (Donald or Daffy, it did not say), and has spent all of his life caged up in one place or another, he has some interesting stories to tell. There are a few slight illustrations, mostly pen drawings, but I do not have any samples to show.
The story of Duck is like a quiet walk down a sandy beach, rather than the dynamite exploding books kids usually like. Told by Duck, the story is of his life and some of his philosophy, right to the end of his life—which begs the question of HOW did he write this when . . .
I think the child that will like Autobiography of a Duck best will be a girl or in the 4H Club. The pace may be too slow for readers used to fantasy adventures and mysteries containing wizards and dragons.
Winner, Best Children’s Story at the 1984 California Writer’s Conference, prior to becoming a children’s book.