Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine

illus. by Andrew Joyner. 30p. Amazon/Two Lions. Dec. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781503900356.
K-Gr 2—When Duck realizes that she doesn't have a valentine on Valentine's Day, she devises a plan to bring all her friends together to celebrate. As she secretly delivers her anonymous party invitations, Hippo is hoping it is from Duck, Turtle is hoping it's from Pig (and vice versa), and Elephant is wondering if it's from Duck or Pig. As the time for the gathering draws near, each animal puts on their best outfit, gathers a treat to share, and heads to the park. They all arrive at exactly 4:00 p.m., but where is Duck? With a flourish she leaps from a bush and declares, "I'm the secret valentine!" and as she gives Hippo a rose she says, "The best valentines are friends" and all of the others heartily agree. Joyner's digitally colored illustrations depict the affable pals in varied settings including house, pizza shop, pond, grocery, bathroom, and street as they get their invite, prepare, and rush off to the park. Plenty of detail, white space plus fun text type and placement make for a lively read. Observant readers will see telltale signs of sneaky Duck as she delivers her missives and spot the birds on every page. An added bonus is a lesson in analog time telling. On six occasions that the text mentions time, there is a clock face somewhere in the illustration (alarm clock, clock tower, timepiece, sundial, etc.) with a blue minute hand and red hour hand with matching numbers.
VERDICT A friend-affirming Valentine story with a time-teaching element to boot. A good choice for storytime or one-on-one sharing.

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