5 Little Ducks

Illustrated by Denise Fleming
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About The Book

Make way for another perfect preschool picture book by Caldecott Honor recipient Denise Fleming!

Featuring a flock of oh-so-adorable fuzzy ducklings, this delightfully fresh take on the classic Five Little Ducks nursery rhyme emphasizes numbers and the days of the week—and these lucky ducklings are doted on by a loving Papa Duck as well as the traditional Mama. Young readers won’t be able to resist counting—and quacking—along!

About The Author
Photograph courtesy of the author

Denise Fleming has written and illustrated numerous celebrated books, including 5 Little Ducks; Go, Shapes, Go!; underGROUND; SHOUT!; Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy; Time to Sleep; The Everything Book; Alphabet Under Construction; Count!; In the Tall, Tall Grass; In the Small, Small Pond, which received a Caldecott Honor; and This Is the Nest That Robin Built. She lives in Toledo, Ohio, with her husband, David Powers, with whom she often collaborates.

About The Illustrator
Photograph courtesy of the author

Denise Fleming has written and illustrated numerous celebrated books, including 5 Little Ducks; Go, Shapes, Go!; underGROUND; SHOUT!; Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy; Time to Sleep; The Everything Book; Alphabet Under Construction; Count!; In the Tall, Tall Grass; In the Small, Small Pond, which received a Caldecott Honor; and This Is the Nest That Robin Built. She lives in Toledo, Ohio, with her husband, David Powers, with whom she often collaborates.

Raves and Reviews

A traditional rhyme serves as the basis for an adaptation with an expanded worldview.As in the original, the story begins with five ducklings and a parent. But this time it's Papa Duck doing the calling. The little ducks' adventures take place over a week, with one fewer returning home each day. Rather than always going "over the hills and far away," however, these five little ducks enjoy exploring new places and meeting new friends. They have fun playing in the woods with a winsome flying squirrel, frolicking with wild turkey chicks, imitating a turtle, wallowing in the mud, and splashing in a kiddie pool. On Saturday, however, all five respond to their father's call, and the family is reunited just in time to share a day of rest on Sunday (mandated by Mama Duck). Two pages of information follow, offering close-up portraits and basic facts about some of the animals featured. As always, Fleming's artwork, created by pulp painting with pastel pencil accents, is lively and appealing. Her clever tweaks to the familiar text allow her to showcase a variety of natural environments. Whether it's a panorama of farmland or a shadowy woodland glade, each double-page spread offers plenty of intriguing details limned in bright colors. Packed with personality and charm, these five ducklings will waddle their ways into the hearts of readers and listeners. (Picture book. 2-6) 

– Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW, 9/1/16

This stunning version of the familiar children’s song features a quacking father duck and ducklings who travel not just “over the hill” but “through the woods,” “past the paddock,” “across the fields,” and “down the road” on successive days of the week. By Saturday all are gone until they heed sad Papa Duck’s final “quack, quack, quack!” and come running home. On Sunday, Mama Duck suggests that the family rest. Fleming’s signature pulp paper paintings bleed to the edges of every spread, providing vibrant textured backdrops for the ducks’ adventures. In a brilliant use of color to represent various environments and temperatures, her speckled skies change from the cool blues of the pond to deep forest green to bright blue and then the yellow of a sun-hot day on the farm. Several creatures, including a less familiar flying squirrel, share scenes with the ducks, and some appear repeatedly. A huge, multicolored turkey spills over two pages, as do a group of pigs contentedly wallowing in mud. Papa Duck’s wings are outstretched to welcome his little wanderers just back from their final encounter—charming young Anna in her wading pool. VERDICT Large, repetitive text that invites participation; the opportunity to learn the days of the week; and interesting back matter that contains brief information about the ducks and other animals in the book make this a great storytime choice for all libraries.

– School Library Journal, October 2016

Fleming (Maggie and Michael Get Dressed) infuses a well-loved nursery song with the vivid hues of her signature pulp-painting illustrations in this joyful interpretation. The five tiny members of a mallard family waddle away from Papa Duck on Monday, headed “through the woods and far away,” but only four return when Papa calls them home with a “Quack, quack, quack!” The pattern repeats as the week rolls on, and also through a series of outdoor scenes—“past the paddock,” “across the fields,” and “down the road”—giving a strong sense of the ducks’ rural environs. By Saturday, the family is reunited, and on Sunday everyone follows Mama Duck’s advice: “Today is the day we all rest!” In addition to incorporating the days of the week into this adaptation, Fleming introduces farm and woodland animals (flying squirrels, wild turkeys, pigs, and more), further expanding the ducks’ world and readers’ experience. A closing section identifies these animals, as well as a girl named Anna, who splashes around with one duck in her wading pool on Friday. A fresh rendition of a favorite. Up to age 8.

– Publishers Weekly, September 19, 2016

Papa Duck and his five little ducklings go out to play on Monday, marching “through the woods and far
away,” until one goes missing. Tuesday through Friday additional ducklings disappear, despite Papa’s
persistent quacking for their return. Luckily, on Saturday they all return safe and sound. On Sunday all are
ready to go again, until Mama Duck insists that everyone take a day to rest. Fleming’s version of this
familiar finger play features her signature pulp-painting artwork, hued predominantly in blues and greens
that contrast nicely with the mallards’ brown bodies. The illustrations become an alternate narrative of
sorts, detailing the other creatures the birds encounter, and suggesting the sources of the fledglings’
distractions. A final spread offers additional information about mallards and the other key characters
(frogs, flying squirrels, wild turkeys, box turtles, pigs, and a young child) and identifies the other depicted
animals. This is a natural fit for toddler story hours or one-on-one sharing; the inclusion of a male primary
caregiver is an added bonus. — Kay Weisman

– Booklist, October 15, 2016

In what might be called a decumulative story, a set of sibling ducklings goes out each day and returns with one fewer duck every time. That’s a slightly ominous tale for the perky rhyming text, but the art reveals the playful reason behind it: each day one duckling falls in with another species of animal, so one tries out be- ing a flying squirrel, another a wild turkey, and so on, with the last little duckling ending up in a wading pool with a little girl; the next day all the babies come back home. The book cleverly incorporates several concepts along the way—numbers from 1-5, days of the week, and animal ID—without pulling focus from the lively duck story. Fleming’s inimitable fiber art retains its usual luxuriant tones in the full spreads; while the high saturation means that sometimes there isn’t much contrast between ducklings and their surroundings, the resulting seek-and-find element is in keeping with the book’s approach, since kids will be puzzling out what each duckling is up to anyway. Compositions are skillfully varied, and colorways range from the rosy pink and chocolate brown of the pig wallow to the lemony sunshine of a bright morning. Animal lovers will especially warm to this multipurpose storytime treat. DS

– Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January 2017

Awards and Honors
  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
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More books from this author: Denise Fleming