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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
written and illustrated by Chih-Yuan Chen
Kane/Miller Book Publishers,(2004)
A rather odd-looking duckling hatched from the fourth egg. "Guji Guji," he said, and that became his name.
Mother Duck taught her four ducklings how to swim, how to dive and how to waddle.
Guji Guji always learned more quickly than the others. He was bigger and stronger, too.
--Guji Guji, by Chih-Yuan Chen, p. 6-8.
A large egg rolls into Mother Duck's nest, but she doesn't notice (she's busy reading). When the eggs hatch, she doesn't seem to notice how different he is—crocadile-like. She loves all her 'ducklings' the same. Guji Guji grows bigger and stronger than his siblings. One day, three mean crocodiles tell Guji Guji that he is just like them—a crocodile—instruct him in how to be a duck-eating crocodile, and pressure him into betraying his duck family. Guji Guji realizes he's not a duck—but he's not a mean crocodile, either. He finds a way to save his family, and to be who he is, no matter what he looks like or who others think he is.
This sweet, encouraging story is a great read that both entertains and encourages readers.
Chen's text is well written and engaging. The story has a nice rhythm to it, with strong details, good movement towards the climax, and a lovely, heartwarming ending as Guji Guji embraces and names who he is—a crocoduck.
The ink and wash paintings are somewhat dark, mostly greys, browns, and blacks, with white for the ducks, moon, and some negative space, and small splashes of color. Yet they add to the story, increasing the enjoyment and amusement, and are paired well with the text. The illustrations reveal a quiet humor—one baby duck has blue spots, one has brown horizontal stripes, and one is a bright yellow. They show, too, Guji Guji pulling a duck toy behind him, emphasizing how he thinks he's a duck. The expressions and body language work well.
Inspiring and heartwarming, this story gently conveys positive messages about the importance of being who you are, standing up for what is right for you, caring about others, appreciating differences, not giving in to peer pressure or to other people's expectations of you, and listening to yourself—all through the metaphor of story. It also encourages readers to understand that they don't have to be what they were born into—that they are not simply bodies, or biology, but heart and soul. This book may appeal to families with adopted kids, to children from abusive families, and to anyone who feels different. Recommended.
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