Lulu: Lulu and the Duck in the Park
Hilary McKay
Albert Whitman & Company
2012 (published 2011 in the UK)

This is what an early chapter book should be!! Cute story, funny scenes, terrific characters, endearing illustrations sprinkled throughout, and just the right early-elementary-but-not-too-specific-age to relate to lots of young elementary students. It’s deceptively difficult to write good early chapter books; you need just the right amount of subtle repetition, just the right level of plot complexity, just the right … so many things. And yet, it should sound (or read) like an older book in that it should flow, have good characterization, not be trite, etc. etc.

Thankfully, here is a new series from McKay that does all the right things right. Lulu, the title character, loves animals. The book reminds me a touch of Daisy Dawson, but I like this one even better. Lulu’s best friend is also her cousin: Mellie. Mellie is terribly absent-minded. The two of them are students together in Class Three, run by the capable-but-not-animal-loving Mrs. Holiday (who is from Scotland–even better!). I’ll just say that Lulu’s animal love combined with Mellie’s absent-mindedness and Mrs. Holiday’s capability makes for one fun story. Lots of animals, lots of student antics, and one very cute duckling will make you eager to read the rest of the series (which, hopefully, Albert Whitman & Co. will bring to us soon!).

Truth/Story
Clearly, this book has “story” well in hand–McKay is a talented writer and hits perfect pitch for her young audience. The “truth” in this book is in the friendships portrayed and the gentle but accurate look at the foibles of humankind. A winning combination that crops up in so many books for the newly independent reader!

I’m writing this review well in advance of its publication since the ARC I received came in April, and the book won’t be out in the US until September (sigh–I’ll have to sit on my hands until then!). The good news: the book will be out just in time for me to scoop one up for my daughter’s October birthday. It’s also a fun back-to-school read.

**Updated 7/25/12 to note that this book also received a star from Horn Book Magazine!

Cover image from Albert Whitman; ARC from netgalley.

Recommended for kindergarten and up (reading level about mid-elementary)

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