One Duck — Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: One Duck

Author: Hazel Hutchins

Illustrator: Ruth Ohi

Publisher: Toronto: Annick Press, 1999.

Genre: Picture book, fiction

Audience Age: 3-8

Themes/topics: Ducks, survival, nesting, predators, wildlife preservation, farming

Opening Sentences:

One duck
at first light
feeds on a prairie pond.
Feeds only briefly
lifts from the smooth water
flies low
to the stubble field close by

Synopsis: The first two double page spreads are idyllic in their description and illustration of one duck flying in and settling on her nest in a stubble field. (That’s a field where the grain has been harvested, leaving just the cut stalks – the stubble.) A page turn shows us that a farmer on his tractor is cultivating the field, turning the stubble over, preparing for seeding time, and coming closer and closer to the duck’s nest with every round. A crow presents a natural danger – the crow would gladly have a meal of tasty duck eggs. The duck finally flies off the nest in panic, and the tractor stops, the farmer gets down and gently lifts the nest. The prose-poem style of the text and the rich illustrations take the reader deep into the emotion of the story. The farmer’s need to till the soil is shown as he rushes to beat a storm, needing to prepare the land so that he can feed and clothe his family. The duck’s need to raise her family is just as strong. The reader feels the tension between both needs, and the introduction of the natural predator, the crow, adds to that tension. Even after the nest is moved, will the duck return in time to save her eggs from the opportunist crow?

Why I like this book: This is a departure from the books I usually feature on By Word of Beth, but it speaks to me on so many different levels. My mother so often spoke of looking beyond the surface for the beauty of the prairie, and this book does just that as we discover the duck’s nest hidden in the stubble. My father was a grain farmer, and on at least one occasion, came upon a nest in one of the fields he was cultivating, and let it be. He took pictures of a snipe on her nest on that field, incredible closeups. This book touched me deep within, and I want to share that experience with others. The bonus is that the author and illustrator are Canadian!



Activity pages at Kidsparkz.

Activities and crafts at First School.

Grain farming:

Resources for teachers and activities for families to teach about grain farms at Grain Chain.


Hazel Hutchins’ webpage has information for kids about how she writes as well as some guess-it quizzes and other resources.


Although Ruth Ohi’s website doesn’t have activities for this particular book, there are other activities for kids, based on some of her other books.

Availability: Readily available in paperback.

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


31 thoughts on “One Duck — Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. This book sounds wonderful, Beth! Have you ever read Mowing? I think I might have to do it next week now that you made me think of it! Thanks for sharing this one, and I’m chuckling to myself because different themes have a way of coming up each week – yours is the third PPB I’ve read so far today, and the second that mentions tractors and farming!

    1. I haven’t read Mowing, and I do hope you’ll do it next week! Isn’t it amazing how themes emerge in PPBF? Vivian’s “The Carrot Seed” could also be fit into the theme, in a broad sense. And tractors and farming aren’t the usual themes on Joanna’s and my blogs, yet we both chose them today.

  2. The things that you mention about this story really spoke to me as a writer. Two opposing needs adding in a third opposing desire to deepen the tension. Will one of these things when out over the other? Along with opposing needs and desires, the stakes rise due to the shortened timetable with the coming of the storm. This sounds like a book fill with guaranteed page-turning ability.

    1. Definitely a page-turner — and thanks for pointing out how much we as writers can learn from this book. Great points!

    1. Thanks, Kimberley! I’m sure the kids in your class will love the book, and will learn a great deal from it. There’s a brief paragraph of facts about ducks on the back cover, which I neglected to mention in my post. It could be a great springboard for more research and discussion.

    1. I hope you can find it, too. I’m sure your little guy will love it. And thanks so much for your lovely words!

  3. Ducks, the prairie, and fields. These all bring me to my roots in North Dakota. This book sounds beautiful, and I’m hooked when it’s described as a prose poem.

    1. Wonderful! Another person with prairie roots! I’m so glad you connected with this book – it is truly a joy to read.

  4. I’m not really a poetry gal, so I probably wouldn’t have gravitated toward this book on my own. That is one of the reasons I love PPBF so much. It exposes us to stories we would have otherwise missed. This book sounds beautiful, thanks for the recommendation, Beth!

    1. That’s the beauty of this book, Amy — it’s not rhyming text (which I often have trouble with), it’s just lyrically written prose that seems poetical in a free verse sort of way. It is a beautifully written and illustrated book.

  5. I love the setting, the tensions, the different conflicting needs, the style and how it touches you. This is a beautiful choice that I hope to read some day!

    1. Hadn’t thought of doing a story of my own based on the story of Dad and the snipe, but there may be some sort of a story in my childhood on the farm that would make a good June draft. Thanks for the nudge, Julie!

  6. What a charming selection! I love it when you stumble upon a book that brings up early childhood memories. The combination of prose and rhyme sounds lovely.

    1. Thank you, Pat! (Just a clarification, it’s not really prose and rhyme together, it’s more like blank verse, poetically arranged prose. There’s no rhyming involved.)

    1. Oh, that’s wonderful, Kirsten! Shows that there’s more than one reason to call these “perfect” picture books! You’re welcome!

  7. Yes, Beth…even before I read your reply to Susanna’s comment, I was thinking the same thing. 🙂 I know I’ve heard it said that great minds think alike. 🙂
    I love your choice this week for PPBF…I would encourage parents (and teachers) to read more books like this one to encourage kids to appreciate the natural world and our impact on it.
    Great activity/resource list!!! A lot of research and time goes into putting that together…I thank you!

  8. Vivian, I agree wholeheartedly with your wish that parents and teachers would read books like this with their kids — it is so important to teach the value of our natural world. And thank you for your comment about the activities and resources! I love the process of finding resources.

  9. Pingback: The Sidewalk Rescue — Perfect Picture Book Friday

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top