Children’s Book Review: “Duck on a Bike” by David Shannon (2002)

Having recently become a kindergarten teacher, I have taken many opportunities in my class-prep time to read through a whole host of books designed for kids ages 2-6. I assure you: this is not my normal reading fare! Before this period of my life began, I had been fairly ignorant of what appears to be an ever-shifting world of children’s books. Though my own home library contains a substantial number of kids books, and though my children enjoy the stock I’ve collected over the years, most of these books come from my own vintage or are classic tales that predate me by decades. So when I entered this kindergarten and started sifting through our school’s library in search of on-theme books, several modern names kept reappearing, one of which was David Shannon.

As a gifted painter and story-teller whose built a powerful career for himself at Scholastic, Shannon puts a wanna-be writer like me to shame. His tales are clever and aimed immediately towards a child’s natural stages of imagination, and the artwork that he himself supplies is bold and colorful with just enough cartoonishness within the realism to match a child’s own view of the world. It’s exactly this artistic ability that strikes me about this book, Duck on a Bike.

Shannon’s greatest strength is clearly his ability to paint the world as he sees it in his mind, which is something I would never be able to do. I envy artists like him, for while a person like me must depend upon descriptive words in my stories or detailed conversations with artists who eventually bring my tales to life, creative geniuses like David Shannon simply sketch and skew their own handiwork until it matches precisely what they themselves had envisioned. I contrast the development of a one-man children’s book to the creation of a cartoon episode, for example, which requires the labor of dozens of talented individuals just to make a quick 22-miunte spot. The ability to communicate individually every nuance of one’s imagination onto paper by using both the paintbrush and the keyboard is one that I greatly admire and wouldn’t mind having–though of course, I’m grateful for the gifts God’s given me!

There’s just something about Shannon’s creativity that sparks the urge in me to study painting a little bit more in depth! His paintings are more than mere pigment on canvas: his animals own vivid personalities, his landscapes continue on for miles, and his readers enjoy unique ground-level and airborne perspectives that I’ve not seen anywhere else. Every page of his artwork—specifically in this tale—can be studied and savored for a long time, bringing out the childishness in anyone, even a dude like me.

©2016 E.T.

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