This endearing collection of stories takes count of the wildlife that populates Daddino’s gardens.
In addition to the exploits of a few other creatures, Daddino’s first book focuses mostly on the Muscovy duck community that made its home around the creek where Daddino lived in Bay Shore, N.Y., on the southern coast of Long Island. Thanks to the balance of awe and familiarity that Daddino conveys, her relationship to the creatures is immediately compelling. From the outset, she admits to having an overwhelming love for animals but also an understanding that they should be self-sufficient. One winter, she raised squirrels in a cage in her basement, not naming them to make it easier to set them free when spring arrives. She brought the ducklings into her house to warm them on only the coldest, wettest nights, and the ospreys she marveled at from afar. While this book spotlights delightful and surprising human exchanges with the animals, external human influences create some tension: ospreys nest atop a crane in a neighboring dredging company, ducks get lost under trucks and swans leave their lovers under the docks. How Daddino manages to have a fertile garden with all these ducks around isn’t addressed until nearly the end, as an aside, which doesn’t prove too insightful. The whimsical color illustrations scattered throughout seem to be asking for a younger audience, perhaps with pared down text, bigger pages, more pictures and more attention to story. On the other hand, with more reflection and careful editing, it could make a strong memoir.
Charming yet loosely connected, like random journal entries.