Perfect Picture Book Fridays: John Philip Duck

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The book I chose for Perfect Picture Book Friday is a historical fiction book about a boy, music and ducks, John Philip Duck by Patricia Polacco.

Title:ย  John Philip Duck

Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher: Philomel Books (Division of Penguin Young Readers)

Ages: 5 & up

Themes: animals, arts, biography, bravery, cause & effect, creativity, diversity, culture, helping others

Opening and Synopsis:ย 

Edward was a sweet boy who lived with his family on a small farm

just outside of Memphis in the foothills of Tennessee. Times were hard.

There was a depression on and money was hard to come by.

Even though Edward was just a kid, he and his father worked at the same hotel in Memphis.

During the work week they stayed at the hotel, but on the weekends they both went home.

From the book jacket: When young Edward first brought his tiny wild duck to the grand hotel where he worked with his pa, his only thought was to keep it hidden. After all, he just needed a warm place for his little pet to stay during the day. Everyone helped to keep his secret.

Until one day, when Mr. Schutt, the blustery hotel manager, discovered the duck swimming in the lobby fountain! Surprised but not defeated, Edward showed Mr. Schutt how his duck could perform, even march to a John Philip Sousa tune. Maybe Edward could train other ducks to do the same. All he needed was Mr. Schutt’s okay-but could he get it in time to save John Philip Duck?


Go on Itunes and Spotify and listen to some John Philip Sousa music.

Visit online the Peabody Hotel in Memphis

Coloring pages of ducks

Patricia has some neat activities and free bookmarks at her website

Try a discussion with kids on tricks your favorite pets do. Do any of them like music?

What’s your favorite genre of music? Why?

What I liked about this book:ย  Even though it is historical fiction, this story felt so real to me. It was fun to find out that there really is a Peabody Hotel in Memphis famous for its ducks in lobby. And Edward Pembroke really was the bellman and Duck Master for over 50 years at the Peabody. I loved the way the author wrote this as if it was set back in history. Using words like “Pa” and “lad” made you feel like you were back in the South in the ’30’s. The art in it is fantastic. The figures show emotion and pull the reader into that time frame in our history. The author gives us emotional ties to the young boy. When John Philip gets loose, you are anxious to turn the page to see what happens next. I loved how the hotel staff all helped the boy to keep the duck quiet. Anyone who’s ever owned a duck knows this is a very hard thing to do! ๐Ÿ™‚

ย Perfect Picture Book Fridays are a weekly blog event where participants review some of their favorite picture books. The posts are compiled on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. They are categorized by theme to help parents, educators and readers find the perfect picture book easily. To learn more, please visit Susanna’s site where you will find the complete PPBF’s library.

21 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Fridays: John Philip Duck
  1. I love that everyone helped to keep his secret! I will have to read this one!

    • Me too Penny! Thanks for the comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Patricia Polacco will always remain a favorite of mine. I love her illustrations and stories. I began reading her back in the early 90s with my daughter. Have met her. This book sounds wonderful — one I’ve missed. Will have to check it out.

    • I had read others by her also, but this one really stuck with me. Must be my love for music…and ducks ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Patricia Polacco is one of my daughter’s favorite picture book authors. However, we have not read this book. It sounds great. I love how her books are based on true events.

    I am determined to get to the Meteor Festival that she hosts every July in Michigan. It sounds wonderful!

    • A meteor festival? How fun! Thanks for stopping by Eric!

  4. I hadn’t heard of this Patricia Polacco book. My kids read many of her books in school and we’ve had a lot come through our house. Looking forward to checking this one out!

  5. This book sounds terrific and I’ve never even heard of it, even though I love Patricia Polacco! I love that everyone helped Edward keep his secret! And I also love books that have enough true things in them to make them feel real. Thanks for sharing this one, Loni! I think it’s a great addition to our list!

    • Our library has a whole bunch of her books, but this one is my favorite ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re welcome Susanna, thanks for stopping by.

  6. I’ve not encountered this author. Thanks, Loni! I’m all for books that teach history, and particularly musical history, in a fun way.

    (And now I’m singing, “Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother…”)

    • Beth, she has a bunch of wonderful books. Her website is great too. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

  7. That’s great you found some history on it. What a fun read this must be. Can’t wait to read it.

    • Yes, I loved finding out about it. It’d be fun to go to the Peabody someday ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hi there Loni. I became a huge Patricia Polacco fan ever since I discovered her picture book Junkyard Wonders – there was a time when I borrowed ALL of her books from my institution’s library, but we don’t carry this particular title. I’d be sure to recommend this to our librarians. Many thanks for sharing!

  9. I’ve know about the ducks in the fountain in the Peabody Hotel, but I didn’t know there was a picture book about it! Patrick Carman said the Peabody Hotel ducks were the inspiration for the ducks in the hotel in his book “Floors”. I am going to check this out!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oh that is interesting Erik! I haven’t read that book. I will have to check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. This sounds like a lovely one. I like the use of words like “pa” and “lad” too.

  11. I love historical fiction, but had no idea that there were kids books for this too. I love ducks too and will add this to my list for the library.
    A2ZMommy and Whatโ€™s In Between

  12. Loni…what a great choice!
    It sounds like a sweet story…close relationship between the boy and his dad…and how he uses his ingenuity to keep his new pet.
    Wonderful resources and activties…great job putting them all together for us. ๐Ÿ™‚