Book Review: The Dark and the Ducklings

By Glenda Millard. Illustration by Stephen Michael King

I don’t quite understand my feelings for this book. Reading The Duck and the Darklings is a dramatic venture. There is a yearning, like the moment before cool water enters thirsty lips. Relief, perhaps, and a longing. Something magnificent is about to unfold.

“Reading The Duck and the Darklings is a dramatic venture.

Yes. I do know I’m talking about a picture book. But this is not the usual kind of picture book. There is no language I can use to express just how lovely this collection of words is, so I shall borrow some from Glenda Millard.

The sad thing is, this book is not highly circulated. This is a picture book that sits outside the ‘normal’ rounds of picture books for reasons I cannot fathom. It is a shame. Glenda Millard deserves enormous credit for her work The Duck and The Darklings. If you haven’t read it, do. Even better to have someone read it to you.

Watch Darren Hanlon read it here.

I say it often; I love nothing more than a children’s writer who respects their readers. Glenda Millard in another shining example of a writer who shows her audience the greatest respect. Nothing is coated in sugar. Nothing is falsely bright. The Duck and the Darklings is no light-hearted story. Millard does children the curtesy of telling a story bereft of false cheer but brimming with hopefulness.

It is of a fable which, happily, is completely lacking in the forced didactics of other cautionary tales. All we are asked to do is consider – what if?

“… all around them the earth remained strangely bright and beautiful. The old ones looked in shame for the wounds man had made. But time had soothes earth’s hurts. She was dressed anew in flowers and forests.”

Glenda Millard – The Duck and the Darklings

The Story

In a dystopian place where the earth is barren and bare, Peterboy and Grandpapa live in the land of Dark.

“Dark was a sorry, spoiled place; a broken and battered place.”

Dark is a place of refuge for those who have survived. The old one’s don’t talk about how bright and beautiful the world was once.

Peterboy and the other young Darklings venture out into indigo nights to find sustenance and relics of times gone by to bring comfort to the old. There, Peterboy finds Idaduck; broken and alone.

Peterboy and Idaduck - The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King.
Peterboy and Idaduck

Though Grandpapa insists they cannot keep the duck, he mends her.

Grandpapa darned and cobbled until the duck was mended from top to tail; quack, waddle and wing.”

 The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King.

But Grandpapa knows that ducks are full of wanderlust. Soon enough, Idaduck prepares to leave the Darklings with the great emptiness she had filled. Their longing becomes great, for her and for the long-ago, and Grandpapa begins telling the lost stories.

Idaduck has brought more hopefulness to the Darklings than any before. They don’t want to be forgotten. They give Idaduck a grand fare-thee-well, and all light their candle-hats to shine Idaduck on her way.

“The velvet wind whispered. Idaduck spread her wings and the Darklings watched with hope in their hearts”


This is an extraordinary, enchanting story of friendship and hopefulness from two very talented, award-winning picture-book makers; Glenda Milard and Stephen Michael King.

The Duck and the Darklings is triumphant story, for children and adults alike. It is a reminder to look for the small comforts wherever you can find them, and about the coming of hope in dark days.

It is the story of a boy, Peterboy, who simply wished for a scrap of wonderfulness – something to bring light into Grandpapa’s eyes.

The Duck and the Darklings was awarded the following:

WINNER: 2016 WA Premier’s Book Awards, Children’s Books

SHORT-LISTED: 2015 CBCA Picture Book of the Year

SHORT-LISTED: 2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

Selected by the International Youth Library as a White Raven 2015 book.

More books by this author

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