When I say that The Duck and the Darklings is great post-apocalyptic lit for kids, what I mean is: Hello adults who read to small children at bedtime, buy this book. You will actually, legitimately like it. That the kid in question probably will too is just bonus material.
You can read this book to children. It is a children’s book. But the language is stunningly poetic, the art quirky and wonderful, and the post-apocalyptic story appropriately hopeful for a young audience. And an old audience. I know I could use a few extra doses of the stuff at the moment.
Buy this book for kids whose parents you want to have a good bedtime story experience. Pod knows we’ve all read Cat in the Hat and Where the Wild Things Are and Go the Fuck to Sleep 16,038 times already and could use some mother fucking spice.
The story: Peterboy lives underground with his grandpapa and scavenges essentials from the “finding fields,” the wasteland that is all that remains of the world aboveground. One day he finds a duck and though Grandpapa says it’s just another mouth to feed, lets Peterboy keep it until they nurse it back to health (enter hope). When the day comes to let the duck go, they have a party, and when they go to the surface to let her go discover that all is not lost and the light has returned and the Earth has started to heal. It really is quite sweet, and I can’t emphasize enough how beautiful the language is:
“Over heaps and hummocks of lost and lonely things they clambered, gathering fiddlesticks for firewood, filling billies with trickle and seeking crumbs and crusts of comfort to take home.”
Poetic language can be hard for small children. (Example: My daughter will not sit through Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl. Too abstract, I think, with a message more about parental feelings than kidly entertainment.) But The Duck and the Darklings is poetic in a way that still lets images through to the child while giving the adult reading a hell of a lot to enjoy.
The Duck and the Darklings
Words: Glenda Millard
Pictures: Stephen Michael King
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2014