Finding Family: The Duckling Raised by Loons written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis tells the true story of a pair of loons who cared for and raised a mallard duckling on a Wisconsin lake in 2019. Laura does an exceptional job of applying her skills as a poet in writing the lyrical text. Told in free-verse poetry, the well-researched facts sing with emotion.
Mother and Father hover over
yellowish chick that
bobbles in the downpour.
Laura peppers the text with questions that will keep young readers engaged and curiosity high. The questions also remind us that since scientists don’t always have all the answers, questioning is at the heart of research. The repeated refrains “Nobody knows” and “but Duckling does” keep the story moving while sustaining interest. When the story comes to a close, we know it is not really the end for these creatures, and we leave with the reminder that “The future is a perfect mystery of possibilities, like an unhatched egg.”
The sharp, clear illustrations show the unusual family from different perspectives (above, underwater) and in different situations (together, alone). As the story moves through the spring and summer, they also allow us to watch duckling grow. The soft color palette is as gentle and peaceful as the ripples of water on duckling’s lake.
An added bonus, of course, is the back matter. Here, Laura provides the backstory along with an actual photograph of duckling with her adopted parents. A Venn diagram comparing loons and mallards is the perfect visual for showing how unlikely it was that this family formed such a bond. Parents and teachers alike will love it!
To me, this is a story not only about family, but about what we can learn from nature. Despite differences, there is a need for all of us to care for one another and to remember that families, despite different shapes or sizes, have love as a common denominator.
Finding Family will be out in the world on March 7. Laura has information on ordering and lots of other resources on her website: https://laurasalas.com/finding/
This is a book you will want to own!
Thank you so much for this very thoughtful review, Rose!
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I got an advanced copy, too and it’s all that you said it is. I so admire the work that Laura does and how it’s so adaptable to multiple ages. I could read this aloud to grands or use with my students to learn about ducks and loons. They did not even know loons existed because we do not have them here in the South.
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I agree. There are so many layers.
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