When my children were young, in the seventies and early eighties, there was a trend in children’s books toward ‘learning life lessons’. They tended to be a little earnest; a little humor would have gone a long way to have made these books more readable. Jackie Urbanovic has figured out how to write funny books that just might offer a little insight into life.
Duck at the Door was the first of her books about Irene and her menagerie. One winter night a very cold duck named Max knocks on Irene’s door. He is invited to stay and he becomes a bit of a pest; he cooks meals no one likes and he hogs the remote. But by springtime, when Max leaves to join his flock, all the animals find that life is a bit boring and now they can’t wait for Max’s return in the fall.
The next book in the series is Duck Soup. Max decides to create his own soup recipe. He is adding ingredients and decides that chives are just what the soup needs, so he heads out to the garden to pick the herb. As he leaves, Dakota, brody and Bebe enter the kitchen looking for Max. Dakota sees a feather in the soup and decides that Max fell into the pot. Chaos ensues. Max returns to find his soup destroyed but his friends elated that he was not duck soup.
One day a very large alligator knocks on Irene’s door. He is fleeing a zoo detective because he mistakenly ate someone’s pet. “Please don’t eat us! everyone screams. But Max remembers what it was to be in trouble and alone, so he decides to help Harold, the alligator. He pleads with Irene to rescue Harold like she rescued him. Harold assures everyone that he is not dangerous. They decide to hide the alligator from the zoo detective. Again chaos ensues. It turns out that Harold ate a HOT dog not a PET dog and the detective comes to bring the alligator back to his home.
The fourth book in the series is Sitting Duck. Brody’s niece, Anabel, is coming to visit. Max agrees to help babysit because, “How much trouble could a puppy get into anyway?” Most of the animals, disagreeing with Max, flee. Anabel arrives. Chaos ensues. Exhausted, Brody falls asleep. Anabel asks Uncle Maxie to take her outside. He tries to interest her in the tire swing and the swimming pool. She doesn’t like either one but she spies a trampoline. That is perfect. Anabel jumps so high she gets caught in a tree. Chaos ensues. Anabel is saved when all the animals help to get her out of the tree.
I have used these books with my Schools of Hope students. They love them. There is a bit of the Marx Brothers about these books that I don’t think is accidental.