A Duck Called Brian

Scholastic. Nov. 2023. 32p. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781338848113.
Gr 2-4–The puns are coming fast and hard from the end papers on in this picture book that seems to be prepping children for Mo Willems’s books or perhaps Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants. Brian, cereal-loving and loyal, is a standout duck in blue, unlike his yellow cohorts, so maybe his personality was written from birth. Posters for “Ducks of Hazzard” and “Bat Duck” greet readers, as does Brian with a “Well, Hello!” Yes, says the omniscient narrator, he is blue, and what of it? The arch narration states and overstates the humor to make sure readers are paying attention: “Brian came across Peter, who was busy counting ants.” Brian asks if Peter has seen his missing best friend, Gregory, and Peter replies, of course, “Sorry, no. I’ve been busy counting ants.” This repetition will push emerging readers along as one absurd event after another unfolds, and no one has seen Gregory. When Brian falls into a magical door, he finds his best friend and they enjoy a bowl of cereal together. Shaggy duck story? Children may love the format; reading it aloud becomes tedious and the ending leaves those with expectations of real triumph in the dust.
VERDICT Comic illustrations, friendship, and hundreds of ducks engaged in silly activities may be enough for some readers, but libraries better go with Mo.

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