Books by Donald Dreifuss

Released: March 24, 2003

When Farmer Donald removes 12 broken fence posts from the ground just before Mother Duck marches her 12 ducklings across the pasture, a gentle misadventure occurs. Folk-art-style paintings use warm colors to keep the feeling of peril low, but the ducklings do fall into the fence-post holes and are unable to get out until Farmer Donald rescues them. Subtle geometrical patterns, squiggles, and curlicues, along with a lack of linear perspective, create beautiful two-dimensional backgrounds with a slight element of abstraction. With the exception of the human figure of Farmer Donald, who is drawn stiffly and seems to lack artist intentionality, the illustrations are a wonderful combination of simplicity (the deceptively simple shapes of the animals and the two-dimensional spaces they inhabit) and complexity (paint texture, gorgeous color combinations, and ever-changing composition). Only eight ducklings are actually ever lost and found, but Mother Duck's tendency to count both forwards and backwards is a nice touch; this "counting story," more story than counting, is calm and colorful. An afterword offers interesting information about the Muscovey ducks that are so charmingly pictured. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
BIRDHOUSE FOR RENT by Harriet Ziefert
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Told from the unusual first-person point of view of a birdhouse, this picture book begins with the arresting announcement, "I am a birdhouse," over a picture of a birdhouse sporting a For Rent sign. Below, at a discreet distance, sits an intensely interested party: a cat. The stage is set. As the birdhouse waits, the seasons progress, birds fly past without interest, and some unsatisfactory renters move in: wasps and chipmunks. Finally, to the birdhouse's delight, a chickadee moves in and lays eggs, three of which are stolen by the canny cat. When the rest of the chickadees are strong enough, they fly safely away. Bringing the story full circle, the birdhouse is for rent once more, with the farm cat still lurking—but much closer than in the first scene. The expressionistic paintings add much to this simple drama in nature. Using a saturated palette, as rich as melted crayons, the illustrator keeps the golden-yellow birdhouse, its color echoed in the stripe of the tiger cat, at the center of most paintings. Its round door is eye-like as it watches alertly for prospective tenants in the outside world and overlooks the chickadee family once they have settled in and their eggs have hatched. Interior perspectives of the birdhouse fill the page with nest, eggs, and subsequently plump baby birds. The drama is heightened by a view of one large cat's eye peering in at the tempting, unprotected eggs. The only barrier to the story's guaranteed success is presented on the first page when the rental birdhouse declares, "As you can see, I am vacant. I have no tenants." The youngest children, who might enjoy the story, may have little grasp of the concepts of rental, vacancy, and tenants. But the seductive art makes it more than worthwhile to explain. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >