Saturday, December 10, 2016

Duck, Duck, Porcupine by Salina Yoon

Today’s guest blogger is Kahla Gubanich. Kahla is a children’s and maker librarian at Carroll County Public Library in Maryland. 
Image from Duck, Duck, Porcupine
by Salina Yoon

In Duck, Duck, Porcupine by Salina Yoon, we are introduced to Little Duck, Big Duck, and Porcupine. The book contains three stories. In the first, the trio’s perfect picnic is nearly ruined by rain. In the second story, Big Duck has forgotten something very important, but all ends well when Big Duck remembers just in time to celebrate Porcupine’s birthday. Finally, the friends decide to go camping.

The simple sentences keep up a staccato beat throughout the book, and the words in the chapter titles are usually repeated several times within each story. Sentences are all fully contained on a single page and within the speech bubble. The content is not overly complicated and will likely be relatable to the reader: we have a soggy picnic that results in some great puddle jumping, a nearly-forgotten birthday that ends with a party, and exhaustive preparations for a camping trip that conclude satisfactorily with a crackling fire and some roasted marshmallows. In short, Duck, Duck, Porcupine has every initial appearance of a book for very early readers.

Image from Duck, Duck, Porcupine by Salina Yoon
The font choice generally echoes this conclusion. The text inside the characters’ speech bubbles is large and bold, suitable for beginning readers. For the most part, fonts outside the bubbles remain readable and even convey additional information to the reader. For example, as Little Duck grows bolder and begins to splash in the puddles with increasing gusto, the onomatopoeia text grows larger, showing the reader that the noise is louder. The font used for Big Duck’s extensive camping list has a handwritten quality, but remains large on the page.

There is one unfortunate exception to this: when Big Duck forgets Porcupine’s birthday, the reader’s only clues to the mysterious event come in the form of the tiny text on the gift tag, and on the birthday card in which Little Duck’s wing partially obscures the first letters. If the reader is unable to decode these clues, they remains just as in the dark as Big Duck about why the day is important and the story ultimately falls flat. A more experienced reader will decipher the partially-hidden words, but the very basic text and plot do not otherwise seem to target more experienced readers.

Image from Duck, Duck, Porcupine by Salina Yoon
The illustrations are bright and uncluttered, with saturated colors and bold outlines and a clean, whimsical style that will appeal to fans of Elephant & Piggie. In many instances the illustrations clearly reflect the text. When Big Duck refers to a string around her finger, the illustration clearly depicts her holding up one wing with a string tied around it. Yet the relationship between text and illustration varies, at times becoming an obstacle to the reading. Early in the book the characters head off-page to fetch the picnic basket and blanket one page before these items appear in the illustrations. Once the items do show up, the words are unfortunately not repeated.

On occasion, the illustrations and dialog even fail to align. Once the friends have assembled their picnic, Porcupine says, “Let’s go!” Yet the characters are all standing still, and the following image depicts them seated, apparently in the same spot. While relatively minor, these misalignments all create space for the reader to get lost within the text. These trickier interplays of text and image, combined with the well-hidden clues and more experienced visual literacy required to follow the plots, make Duck, Duck, Porcupine a seemingly simple book that requires a deceptively sophisticated reader.

What do you think? Have you read this book with a child? How did they navigate the text and illustrations?

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