The duck in the gun by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Robyn Belton

The duck in the gun by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Robyn Belton (Walker Books, 2009; first published 1969)

32 pages with delightful colour illustrations


Subjects: peace, ducks, animals, picture books (Year 2-6)

Synopsis

For the last post of the year, it seems appropriate to feature a book about peace –
“The General and his men are about to fire on a town they are at war with. But the Gunner has bad news for the General – they can’t load the gun as there is a duck nesting inside it! Determined to not let a single duck stop an army, the General visits the Prime Minister of the town he is preparing to fight to resolve the situation. Can one duck put an end to the war?” (Outline from Walker Books)

This book won the NZLA Russell Clark Award and was also one of ten children’s books selected for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. You can see the 1984 Shortland Educational Publications edition online at the International Children’s Digital Library.

Activities

Lots of good classroom ideas here.


Questions

There are some very good questions in Walker Books’ list of classroom ideas (shown above), including these ones:

“What does ‘peace’ mean to you? 
Do you have a favourite place that makes you feel at peace, or a person that makes you feel peaceful? 
Draw a place, person (this can be imaginary or real) that makes you feel this way.”


About the author

One of New Zealand’s best-loved writers, Joy Cowley needs little introduction. 

About the illustrator
RobynBelton is also well known for her many prize-winning children’s books. 

I love the illustrations in this book. One of my favourites is the picture of the General  relaxing over his newspaper while his men are painting houses in the town (that’s the town they are supposed to be at war with!)

Other books you might like:

Other anti-war books for children include The story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, The general by Janet Charters, illustrated by Michael Foreman, Bravo! byPhilip Waechter and Moni Port and Thebutter battle book by Dr Seuss.


Things I didn’t know

In the brief bios at the back, Robyn Belton says she added a dog that wasn’t in Joy’s text, to act as a “mirror” – “amplifying the gestures and expressions of the girl”. 
Joy says that the book grew out of her “feelings of distress” about the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, combined with a heart-warming news story about a duck that made its nest on a building site in Chicago and halted construction for three weeks.   


Have you read it?

Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!