Thursday, February 12, 2009

Desperado at the Door: Duck and Cover by Jackie Urbanovic

Knock! Knock! Knock!



It's deja vu all over again for Irene, a softie for animals in need who lives with a menagerie of varied furred and feathered critters. It's only been a year since she found Max, the blizzard-driven mallard, on her stoop and adopted the Duck at the Door.

But this time the mendicant is a fugitive from the zoo, Harold the alligator, just one step ahead of the law. Irene quickly slams the door on Harold's snout, as her pets recoil in fear at the sight of the toothy gator. But she can't resist a sad story:

"Help! If the zoo detective finds me, I'm a goner.

I just had a snack. Okay, it was someone else's pet. I didn't know that!"

Irene's pets look at each other in horror. A confessed pet-eater at the door. Yikes! But Max finds the refugee's pleas strangely moving.

Max was afraid, too, but he remembered what it was like to be in trouble and alone. Now it was his turn to help someone else.

Believing Harold's protestations that he is not dangerous, Max persuades Irene to let the alligator on the lam hide inside, and when the zoo cops come to call, all the pets plop down on Harold's back, making him look for all the world like a low and modern green sofa. Nope, no gators here, they all agree.

But keeping Harold isn't easy. He's got a big mouth and a big appetite, and Irene and her family realize that they've got to keep the one full and the other satisfied just in case. Lolling luxuriously in the backyard wading pool, Harold works his way through most of the can-opener-wielding cats' canned tuna, while Max and the others work on Plan B, pulling together an impressive pile of crafting supplies.

All too soon the detectives are back at the door.


Ma'am, your neighbors called the zoo. They reported seeing someone suspiciously GREEN in your backyard!"

"Okay, Harold, it's no use hiding. Come on out," said Irene

Suddenly the officers are confronted with more than a dozen green gators--little ones, big ones, really big ones, and even one with duck feet--all cleverly clad in a variety of homemade gator costumes.

"Who's the REAL Harold?" said one of the detectives. "Look! It's a gator goof. The zoo wishes to right a wrong. The dog we thought Harold ate wasn't the girl's PET DOG; It was her HOT DOG!"

All's well that ends well, and Max the mallard and Harold the alligator part as unlikely but good friends with a lot in common in the third installment in Jackie Urbanovic's Max series, Duck and Cover (HarperCollins, 2009). The text is funny and the illustrations of the harried Irene and her multi-pet household are even funnier.

For more mallard mirth from the talented Jackie Urbanovic, see also the second book in this best-selling series, Duck Soup. For reviews of the two previous books, take a quick look here.

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