The Story: There once was a duck who had the bad luck to live with a lazy old farmer. The duck did the work. The farmer stayed all day in bed. Poor Duck. He is so tired, and fed up that the other animals make a plan to get rid of the lazy old farmer once and for all and take over the farm themselves.
It’s like a child’s version of Orwell’s Animal Farm, but without the horrors and with a very satisfying happy ending. It has a despicable baddie – the farmer – who is instantly and delightfully unlikeable, and a poor downtrodden hero – the duck – who has the love and support of his friends. Farmer Duck is a classic tale of love’s triumph over abuse and fear. It is a tale of friendship, and determination to make the world a better place.
Waddell’s text is so very, very clever. Though not in verse, it has a beautiful rhythm that really pulls you along through the story and make it perfect for reading out loud. Each word has been deliberately and carefully chosen to create what I feel is a real work of art.
It was this book, above all others, that inspired me to write for children. In fact, my book Rhino? What Rhino? gives a nod to Martin Waddell in the scene where the animals meet at the back of the shed to discuss the Rhino’s behaviour.
Farmer Duck is illustrated by the wonderfully talented Helen Oxenbury – one of my favourite illustrators. They depict scenes of the English idyll while also showing the hardship and struggles that farmers endure day after day. As the story takes the reader from misery and despair towards hope and happiness, so the pouring rain, dark skies, mud and crumbling brickwork give way to sunshine, warmth and happiness.
The more I read this book, the more I love it.
I give it 11/10 with a cherry on top!
Age Range: 4 +
Author: Martin Waddell / Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury
About Caryl Hart
Caryl Hart is an award-winning children’s author based in Derbyshire, UK. She writes picture books and young fiction, and loves walking her dog, sitting in cafes and snuggling. Caryl runs creative literacy workshops for schools and libraries and is described by Children’s Bookseller Magazine as “a rising picture book star”.
Caryl’s most recent book, Catch That Rat is a true story. Sort of.