Book Review: Marmaduke Duck on the Wide Blue Seas, by Juliette McIver and Sarah Davis

Available now in bookstores nationwide.

This is a charming delight of a picture book. It is the third featuring Marmaduke Duck, written by Juliette MacIver and illustrated by Sarah Davis, and by far the most cv_marmaduke_duck_on_the_wide_blue_seascompelling and adventurous of the three (and my favourite − it has monkeys in it!). For those unfamiliar with the series, Marmaduke Duck makes marmalade jam, which is well loved by his animal friends, then (in the second book) Bernadette Bear moves in and sets up a honey store in direct competition with him. There is some rivalry, but the two eventually become friends and combine their talents to make a one stop sweet shop.

In this third book, Marmaduke Duck has become restless with his cosy life, and decides to set off on a grand adventure − exchanging a cart filled with jam for a sailing ship, and heading off with a ragtag crew to sail the seas. All is going well until the ship runs afoul of the Marmoset Monkeys and Orangutan Fang.

The whimsical illustrations are a delight and combine with the words to create a truly enchanting picture book. From the soft pastels of the cover − where Marmaduke stands atop his crow’s nest, telescope in hand and stirring spoon in his belt − and throughout the narrative, the characters come to life. This is one tale in which the illustrations go above and beyond the narrative, and we can watch as Bernadette − a home sort of bear − leaves the comfort of her house to follow her friend into the unknown − and turn up in just the nick of time to save his feathery hide. Sarah Davis creates all her characters with loving care, including the individual marmosets (there is even a credit at the back to her “Monkey Pirate Fashion Consultant”) who all have their own unique traits. I especially love the facial expressions of Orangutan Fang and the fact that Bernadette Bear is a very realistic sort of bear (especially when angered) – despite her apron, hand bag and little bow.

The prose too is a delight to read. Juliette MacIver writes in rhyme − a hard technique to master − almost flawlessly, creating an animated and lively tale to read aloud. There is a delightful playfulness to the rhythm. Coupled with the illustrations, this is one picture book that can stand reading time and time again, with extra time spend to study the second story − the one told in illustrations alone. This is a story of courage and friendship, of the power of jam and home comforts over the allure of gold. I hope to see more of this loveable, unlikely duo, now that they’ve both had a taste of adventure, let’s hope it leads to more!

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Marmaduke Duck on the Wide Blue Seas
by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431251

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