Yesterday I asked my twelve year old to pick out a picture book that he remembers wanting to read again and again. He handed me Farmer Duck.
"There once was a duck who had the bad luck to live with a lazy old farmer. The farmer stayed all day in bed and the duck did all the work."
I must confess the thing that the first thing that made me smile about this book is the way the lazy farmers underpants, trousers and socks are laid over the end of his bed to "air." You know, so he can get a few more days wear from them. That is if he gets out of bed at all. This guy just gets his duck to do all the work and takes it easy in bed with the newspaper and a box of chocolates.
Oh that poor duck. He does everything. Just look, all by himself he chops wood, digs up the spuds, washes the dishes and does all the ironing. Rain, hail or snow he runs the farm, tending to the sheep, the hens and the cows. Every once in a while the farmers roars from his bed "How goes the work?" and the weary duck always answers "Quack."
Eventually, thankfully, the other animals notice that the duck that the duck is "sleepy, weepy and tired." Concerned about their friend, they have a meeting to figure out how to help. And the farmer gets routed out of bed at last. Which is exactly what he deserves.
P.s. As well as writing classics like Owl Babies and the Little Bear books, Martin Waddell has also written for older kids under the name Catherine Sefton. I just found that out now. So I have been reading him all my life. Helen Oxenbury too has been in our house since the kids were babies, her board books were well chewed, although my favorite is definitely The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.