Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Useful to Have a Duck by Isol

It's Useful to Have a Duck by Isol is one of the best things I've come across lately, and not just because ducks are my second-favourite animal (after elephants). Here is a book that is two stories in one, accordion-style, one half the story of a boy and his duck and the various ways he uses it. As a hat, to dry his ears, and after the bath is almost drained, the duck plugs up the hole. A familiar-enough tale, but then turn the book around to read It's Useful to Have a Boy, the same story but from the duck's perspective. This duck is not a hat, but uses the boy's head to see the view, he uses the boy's ear to wax his bill, and the little duck is not a plug, but is instead seated comfortably in his sleeping hole.

What a delightful book, whose simple drawings will appeal to children, whose story is playful nonsense, who takes such advantage of its bookish form to contort into something quite wonderful. These two mirror stories rendering the "playful nonsense" so much more than that, offering a lesson on perspective that seems miraculous dawning on the adult reader. A child probably would only catch this lesson in glimpses, but how remarkable is any book with depths still to be plumbed.