The readership tag says this book is aimed at kindergartners through third-graders. The story might be elemental, but its lessons are for all ages.
Donna McFarland’s Duck and Friends Go Into Orbit delivers more than the title promises. Each of its five chapters is well-rounded enough to be a separate story. The settings are not as simple as one might imagine either. The book explores a few sites with which even adult readers might be unfamiliar.
One example is the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Early readers who listen to the tightly-written prose and sample the vibrant illustrations by Gayatri Ray will be entertained. That is supposed to happen. Older “kids” who dip into the colorful pages might be impressed to discover it is the home to the late Howard Hughes’ marvel, “The Spruce Goose” the largest wooden plan ever built. The 218.8-foot craft with a 320.11-foot wingspan stood 79.4 feet high. The flying boat lifted off the waters at Long Beach Harbor on Sunday, Nov. 2, 1947 for 30 seconds. The multimillionaire flew the 300,000 pound carrier prototype, 25 feet above the water for just under a mile at 135 miles per hour. It never flew again. That is one of the stories behind the story in McFarland’s imaginative work. To the target age group, Duck and Friends Go Into Orbit offers the kind of story that might get requested again and again.
Duck, the main character, is a water bird as well as a clever and innovative farmer with cows, chickens, pigs, and alpacas. Readers follow his adventure to visit and learn about The Spruce Goose. The group also learns about space ice cream and the Mars Rover. That is what inspires Duck to build a rocket to go to space.
Donna McFarland shows a deep understanding and passion for a child’s worldview. That gives her a strong sense of how to talk about serious topics such as science through animals that act like humans. The narrative constantly moves between human and animal actions. Readers will see Duck build a rocket as the other animals on the farm look on in confusion. The previous titles of the Duck and Friends series are similar. The previous Duck and Friends early readers – The Dinosaur Bones, The Computer Chase and Bots in a Box – show that young readers can gain a lot from the author and her works. I cannot wait to see where Duck goes next.