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A Clutch of Eggy Picture Books

Whether your family is dying Easter eggs, roasting eggs for Passover, or simply celebrating the arrival of spring, you’ll enjoy this clutch of picture books about all things eggy.

          Crisp, clear photos set against a white background chronicle the first few weeks of a duck’s life in “See How They Grow: Duck” by Barrie Watts. Starting with the mother duck sitting on her nest, readers see how an egg hatches and how the wet and exhausted hatchling soon fluffs up into a yellow duckling. Over the next six weeks the duckling learns to swim, sheds its down for feathers, and grows up. Accompanying the colorful photos are beautifully drawn border illustrations that tell a story of their own.

          Amy E. Sklansky offers a more detailed look at the development of an egg in “Where Do Chicks Come From?” Her story begins with fertilization and follows the development of the chick over the next three weeks, from a “tiny white spot” inside the hen to the egg in the nest. Pam Paparone’s cheerful illustrations are equally accurate, including cutaway drawings of the chick’s development. Like other entries in the “Let’s Read and Find out Science” series, this book will satisfy preschool and early elementary readers who want to know all the details. 

          A duck’s version of the new baby story is told in Jane Simmons’ “Daisy and the Egg.” Daisy is eager for her new sibling to hatch, but nothing happens.  “Some eggs just don’t hatch,” Mama Duck tells her, but Daisy is determined. She sits on the egg herself, then is joined by Mama, and at last, they’re rewarded. “Pip! Pip!” says the new arrival, and Mama promptly names Daisy’s new brother Pip.      

          Simmons’ swirls of paint cover each page with bright colors and unusual perspectives. Tiny details, like Daisy’s little cowlick, add expression and humor to a simple story. 

          Another late-hatching egg stars in Emily Gravett’s “The Odd Egg.” Duck is the only bird who has trouble laying an egg. When he finally finds an egg in need of setting, he’s sure it’s the most beautiful egg in the world, despite his friends’ reservations. It’s big, it’s speckled with green dots, and it just won’t hatch. Long after the other chicks have emerged, Duck waits patiently and then – SNAP! – his baby comes out and surprises everyone. (Without giving away the ending, I’ll remind you that scaly creatures lay eggs, too.)

          Gravett uses graduated cut pages that show each successive egg cracking open, a design that invites young readers to turn the pages themselves. 

 “Sometimes an egg is quiet,” Dianna Aston tells readers on the first page of “An Egg is Quiet.” It just sits there on the nest, or between a parent’s feet. But eggs can also be clever (when they use camouflage to hide among stones), colorful, shapely and finally, noisy when they eventually hatch. 

Aston’s simple, informative text is the springboard for delicately drawn watercolor illustrations by Sylvia Long. Plentiful white space and judicious use of color turn a straightforward book into a dramatic story. From the tiniest eggs of the Atlantic salmon and the hummingbird, to the hefty fossilized dinosaur eggs and the enormous ostrich egg, Aston and Long introduce a stunning variety of eggs that will expand children’s horizons beyond what they find in the refrigerator.

Originally published in the 4/7/09 Free Lance-Star newspaper.