In this children’s picture book, told in rhyming verse, a lonely girl agrees to find a lost duck in exchange for a magical spell.
“Gwendolyn Gates was moved by the fates,” begins Bayless’ debut, its rocking rhythms reminiscent of Robert W. Service’s poems. Gwen’s family has just moved to a farm, and she has no friends yet. Wandering about, she spies a Roma woman who offers her a spell against loneliness—but first, Gwen must find the woman’s missing duck, Rupert. Gwen searches all day before catching sight of the waterfowl, who leads her on a chase. Then the baker’s daughter, Chloe, gets involved, as does stableboy Billy. Although they don’t capture Rupert, the Roma woman still gets him back, and Gwen’s new friends make her no longer lonely. Author/illustrator Bayless’ verse scans well; he uses his loping meter to excellent effect, carrying readers along as Gwen runs around field and town searching for mischievous Rupert. His watercolors are lovely, with good draftsmanship, detail, and expression. The soft washes of green, brown, and blue in the hillsides and village make a good contrast to Gwen’s brighter red hair and orange coat. Every page is worth lingering over, and the story’s optimism and energy give the pleasing message that when you get involved, you make friends.
A charming, beautifully illustrated tale that shows that kids don’t need magic to cure loneliness.