As in their previous outing, Five Little Ducklings Go to Bed (2013), all it takes is for one sibling to lose their cool about starting school, and the rest follow.
Although four of these little yellow ducklings are excited about donning their black-and-white–striped neckties and heading off to school, the fifth one’s tears and declaration that they’ll miss their mother are enough to get the waterworks flowing in all five. But mama duck pauses only a moment before kissing them all, telling them not to cry, reassuring them that it’s OK to miss someone and that they’ll remain in “each other’s hearts,” all the while continuing the morning routine and leading the ducklings to join other animal children at school. The five, who haven’t looked sad for several pages, “wiped their eyes, / Waddled off to school with their heads held high,” subtly sending the message that crying isn’t OK and must be suppressed. They all have a great day; indeed, there’s nary a tear from any of the new students, rather unrealistic for the first day of school. Roth’s verses are a bit rough; both the rhyme and rhythm frequently off. Julian’s ducklings are differentiated by their various hats but are otherwise interchangeable, and though the school scenes are delightful, the relationships among the ducks, which should be the foundation of the tale, aren’t demonstrably affectionate save for an ending family hug.
This Swiss-German import—originally written in English—delivers little other than a troubling crying-isn’t-OK message. (Picture book. 3-6)