Canadian Teacher Magazine
Picture Books — Review
Lemon the Duck
by Laura Backman
by Laurence Cleyet-Merle
Lobster Press, 2008
$19.95 (hardcover), 32 pp, colour illus., ages
4 – 8
Lemon the Duck is born in an incubator in Ms. Lake’s classroom along with three siblings. Ms. Lake’s students,
who have been studying oviparous animals, care for the ducklings and delight in their development. Although the other ducklings
thrive, Lemon is unable to stand or walk on her own and is diagnosed with a neurological balance problem. Ms Lake and her
students adopt Lemon when the other ducklings go to live on a farm, and try to find ways to make her more independent. This
delightful story of how a group of school children and their teacher care for a duck with special needs is based on a true
story of the real Lemon the Duck. It has obvious applications for discussions about differences, the value of each individual
and caring for others who need help, but it is such a great story with such wonderful illustrations, that children and teachers
will love it for those reasons alone. For more information about Lemon the Duck and lots of ducky jokes and sayings, visit
December 19, 2009 by AmyF
If you look like a duck and quack like a duck, you must be a duck. What if you can’t walk or move like a duck? Are you
still a duck? Ms. Lake’s class has been watching four eggs in an incubator and they just hatched. What happens when
they discover that one is not quite right? Will they care for the duckling even though it looks and acts different than the
others? Will they try to better the duckling’s life?
Lemon the Duck is a heartwarming story that will win many hearts. Lemon is a duckling born with physical disabilities.
Together with her human classmates she will deal with not only her special needs, but the separation with her family and overcoming
obstacles that stop her from functioning as a normal duckling.
Author Laura Backman takes the subject of special needs and brings it to a kid’s level of understanding. This book
is a great way to introduce your child to this topic. The caring and compassion of Mrs. Lakes’ class will inspire the
whole family to reconsider how they view others. And if you are a family with a special needs child and looking for a book
to explain these needs to a sibling, this is the book for you. From the moment you open the book, your child will engage in
the needs of this duckling and the role Mrs. Lakes’ class partakes in it. Lemon the Duck is an inspiring story to share
You can meet Lemon on her blog, “The Chronicles of Quack“.
Top-rated children’s picture book about special needs
As parents we want to influence our children positively by teaching them that all people are unique and wonderful in and
of themselves. Accepting others for who they are is an important part of proper growth and development. There is a top-rated
kid’s picture book that takes children on an adventure with a classroom and their desire to help a beloved duck named
Lemon. Based on the author’s real-life experience with her pet duck, Laura Backman cleverly endears us to Lemon and
teaches the reader the rewards of perseverance and acceptance. For those children who personally experience a special need
that requires them to move around uniquely, Lemon the Duck will become a treasured read. Those children
who know or spend their classroom time with a friend who has difficulty walking, Lemon the Duck
will give insight and understanding.
Cheer along with Lemon as she strengthens her muscles and marvel at the resilience of the children who just want to help
Lemon to walk. This award-winning children’s picture book is a must in every household for it allows children to become
a part of a journey of hope and endurance. Laura Backman based Lemon the Duck on her own real-life experience with her pet
duck, Lemon. This top-rated children’s picture book shares the struggles and triumphs of a little duck born with a balance
problem. Lemon needed special attention and Ms. Lake’s class accepted the responsibility fully. Quack loudly with the
children as they experiment and finally find a way for Lemon to muck around in the grass with the other ducks. It is a heartfelt
journey for a group of children who learn a great deal of love from Lemon the Duck.
WATERLOO REGION RECORD
LEMON THE DUCK
by Laura Backman; illustrated by Laurence Cleyet-Merle)
When a classroom egg-hatching experiment produces a nestful of
fluffy, yellow ducklings, the children in Mrs. Lake’s class are overjoyed. It doesn’t take
long for them to notice, however, that one of their new feathered friends can’t stand up or even
stretch out her neck.
Lemon is as yellow as meringue pie, with a tuft of white feathers on the top
of her head. She requires extra special care to eat, to go for walks and to have a bath.
Together, the children brainstorm to see if there are ways they can make life
easier for this disabled duck. Their enterprising solution gives Lemon a new lease on life.
Rhode Island teacher Laura Backman’s real-life experience in taking Lemon
under her wing became the basis for this beautiful tale of love and caring, suitable for children ages
three to seven.
Visit www.lemontheduck.com to see photos and videos of Lemon.
By Brenda Hoerle, WATERLOO REGION RECORD
Lemon the Duck
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Many children’s books are important not just in their ability to nurture bonds between
parent and child or expose kids to the joy of reading, but because they relay a message or teach an important lesson. A new
book, Lemon the Duck, written by Laura Backman, goes above and beyond even this. This story not only delivers messages (about
accepting disabilities and uniqueness, the benefits of offering both help and encouragement, and achieving goals), but it
also tells the heartwarming story of Lemon, a duck who is unable to stand up, based on the author’s experiences with
the real Lemon the duck.
The story follows Lemon from the very beginning, when she was born into a classroom of students
who, after discovering her disability, do their best to take care of her. What follows is a tale of hope and love, as the
children do all they can for Lemon as she struggles to be independent and fit in with the other ducks.
The touching and adorable story is complimented by Laurence Cleyet-Merle’s beautiful illustrations.
The colorful and vivid pictures and sweet story are sure to impress everyone, children and adults alike. This book deserves
a place of honor on every children’s bookshelf. For more information, visit the Lobster Press website
. . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008
the story Lemon the Duck, Ms. Lake has a great new learning experience for her primary students... they are incubating
four Pekin domestic duck eggs. On "the big day," Peaches, Chip Chip, Daisy and Lemon emerge. While the children celebrate
their new found friends, they notice Lemon is different... she is unable to stand. As the story progresses, the reader learns
Lemon has been born with neurological problems that will require "extra special care."
Lemon the Duck.
Laura Backman. Illustrated by Laurence Cleyet-Merle.
PQ: Lobster Press, 2008.
32 pp. hardcover, $19.95.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.
Review by Margaret Snow.
While the other three ducks retire to Mr. Web's farm, Lemon lives with the teacher and becomes the class pet. Pushed in a
stroller, Lemon commutes where she enjoys swimming in a tub and she is hand-fed worms. Yet still Lemon longs for the freedom
to move about independently. The children work as a team experimenting and problem solving to give Lemon the best possible
support in her quest for more autonomy. They try tying balloons to her, using a walker, propping her up with pillows, food
temptation, but finally meet with success when student Holly notices a dog life jacket while helping to clean her garage at
home. Back at school, the teacher slips Lemon's legs into the holes of the dog vest, the children hold the handles to assist
with the weight, and VOILA, Lemon can walk upright for the first time. If the children are busy, they simply attach Lemon's
carrier to a stand. She is finally able to move around on her own, observing what is happening around her, "mucking around
in the ground (like all ducks love to do) "and even finding her own worms for the first time rather than being hand fed."
A quiver of sadness begins as Nathaniel questions if this freedom means Lemon is now destined
for Mr. Web's farm as well. Ms. Lake confirms that Lemon will always need them, to which Nathaniel's response is, "I think
we need her too!"
Laura Backman has done an incredible job of relating a personal experience
that occurred in her primary classroom in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Children can easily identify with a variety of typical
student character types found in the text. She has crafted a book where much can be learned about not only the basic development
of "oviparous animals" (animals that lay eggs) but more importantly the value of an individual with special needs. Select
phrases that incorporate the use of a variety of senses are sprinkled throughout the text, such as "mucking around," "chorus
of quacking," "grandmother's lemon meringue pie," "burst out of their egg" and "peeping balls of fluff."
Backman has subliminally added life lessons; for instance, disabilities do not make one less special, the importance of quality
of life; goals can be achieved in creative ways when one has difficulties to overcome; and assistance is important but so
is standing back to offer encouragement so that self-reliance and a sense of personal accomplishment might also be achieved.
Nathaniel showed the others how to feed her. "Hold the worm by Lemon's tail,"
he instructed. "Ms. Lake says Lemon needs to practice touching her oil gland so she can get stronger, and waterproof herself.
It will keep her dry in the water."
Laurence Cleyet-Merle, from Marseille, France, has illustrated many books, magazines and even
board games. His well drawn cartoon images are the perfect medium to capture the wide-eyed innocence of children looking at
a special needs character for the first time. He has revealed a sense of wonder, concern, love and compassion in the facial
expressions of both the children and the ducks. Both colour and light have been skillfully utilized to enhance the story with
his quality art.
Lemon the Duck supports primary curriculum and teachers might
use this book with children to show:
- a "SAFE WAY" to talk about disabilities
- the importance of accepting individuals for what they can do
- class team work
- following through with a class project
- the development of egg laying animals
- the enhancement of a story by using descriptive phrases
- vocabulary development
- lessons on "Writing Traits" i.e. word choice, organization,
voice, sentence fluency, ideas, conventions
Not only is this an awesome story,
but the reader can turn it into a real life experience. To do a follow up on Lemon, visit her website at www.lemontheduck.com. Here you cannot only see the nonfiction version of this tale unfold but also get updates on Lemon, complete with pictures,
home video clips, poems, jokes, other stories of animal rescue, duckology and several newspaper articles featuring Lemon.
To summarize, Lemon the Duck book is delightfully well-written, with excellent
illustrations, and has a variety of purposes in a classroom. I highly recommend this book both for home and school use.
Margaret Snow is a teacher librarian and Early Literacy teacher
in a small school in Southwestern Ontario.
Inspiring, Joyful, and Thought-provoking
, September 4, 2008
This is a joyful and thought-provoking
book for all ages about how animals can cope with serious handicaps. I've witnessed my own critters make remarkable comebacks
from serious illness and injury, including a blind turkey named Hazel. 'Lemon the Duck' is a chronicle of just this kind of
courage. It's inspiring on the human side, too. Few people would go to the trouble of teaching a duck with neurological problems
to stand up and feed on her own. Laura Backman and her students show how far love can go, and you have to wonder who benefited
most - Lemon, or Laura and the children. Both the text and the superb illustrations make this book a must. - Bob Tarte, author
of 'Enslaved by Ducks' and 'Fowl Weather.'
Wayne S. Walker, reviewer with Stories for Children, 09/01/2008
Richard was the first to hear the soft peeping sounds as the
four duck eggs began to hatch in Ms. Lake's classroom. The children named the ducklings Peaches, Lemon, Daisy, and Chip-Chip.
However, neurological issues made Lemon unable to walk. Ms. Lake contacted Dr. Bill the vet, who said that Lemon had a balance
problem for which not much could be done. The other ducks went to live on Mr. Web's farm, but Ms. Lake and the students did
what they could to give Lemon the extra special care that she needed to grow stronger. In the end, their creativity invented
a solution for Lemon to visit with her siblings. This book is based on the inspirational true story of the author's real-life
experience with a duck born in an elementary school classroom. It teaches not only about egg to duckling development but also
about animals (and people) who are different and have special needs. Children need to remember that disabilities do not make
anyone less special, and a book like this is a helpful way to impress such a lesson on their minds. It is a truly heart-warming
story with lovely illustrations that I highly recommend.
Awards and Reviews
"A clever story about accepting and supporting those with life challenges ... The illustrations
are adorable and the expressions on the faces of the children in the story as they ponder how to help the loveable Lemon can
be used as discussion-starters." – Library Media Connection, May 2009
"Backman has done an incredible job ... She has crafted a book where much can be learned about
not only the basic development of ‘oviparous animals,’ but more importantly the value of an individual with special
needs ... Lemon the Duck supports primary curriculum and teachers might use this book
with children to show a ‘safe way’ to talk about disabilities ... delightfully well-written, with excellent illustrations,
and a variety of purposes in a classroom." – CM: Canadian Review of Materials,
“This delightful story of how a group of school children and their teacher care for a
duck with special needs is based on a true story of the real Lemon the Duck. It has obvious applications for discussions about
differences, the value of each individual and caring for others who need help, but it is such a great story with such wonderful
illustrations that children and teachers will love it for those reasons alone.” – Canadian Teacher Magazine,
“This book is based on the inspirational true story of the author's real-life experience
with a duck born in an elementary school classroom. It teaches not only about egg to duckling development but also about animals
(and people) who are different and have special needs. Children need to remember that disabilities do not make anyone less
special, and a book like this is a helpful way to impress such a lesson on their minds. It is a truly heart-warming story
with lovely illustrations that I highly recommend.” – Stories for Children, October 2008
"By caring for Lemon, the students shared in her triumphs and defeats, and learned about
love and acceptance. Most important, the children discovered that disabilities and differences don’t make a person or
animal less special or valued." – RI Catholic Magazine, Oct. 2008
“Based on a real-life experience, Lemon’s plight will tug at the heartstrings of
young readers ... Whether this is read just for the story or seen as a teaching moment on the care of those with special needs,
it is a warm and fuzzy tale.” – Children's Literature, 2008
“Lemon not only taught students about egg to duckling development, but also an important
lesson about animals with special needs. Lemon is not a throw away duck, not a mistake, not a project gone wrong, but rather
a very special duck with very special needs. Students learned a valuable life lesson from Lemon and from their teacher.”
– The Majestic Monthly
“This is a joyful and thought-provoking book for all ages about how animals
can cope with serious handicaps ... Lemon the Duck is a chronicle of just this kind of courage. It's inspiring
on the human side, too. Few people would go to the trouble of teaching a duck with neurological problems to stand up and feed
on her own. Laura Backman and her students show how far love can go ... Both the text and the superb illustrations make this
book a must.” – Bob Tarte, author of Enslaved by Ducks
a big-hearted and colourful tale based on a true story … The students' love for the duckling, plus their problem-solving
skills, eventually lead them to an ingenious solution that allows Lemon to participate fully in the life of the classroom
and even in that of her siblings on the farm.” – Montreal Review of Books, Fall 2008
“The colorful and vivid pictures and sweet story are sure to impress everyone, children
and adults alike. This book deserves a place of honor on every children’s bookshelf.” – MomCentral.com, Oct 2008
“... lively artwork complements the hustle and bustle of the action in the story ... a
tender story [that should be] in both school and public libraries.” – Resource
Links, November 2008
“... [a] beautiful tale of love and caring, suitable for children ages three to seven.”
– Waterloo Region Record, Sept. 2008
Staff Pick: Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore, on Cape Cod, "LOVE this book. The sweetest tale of love, acceptance, and
friendship despite differences. The cheerful and unique illustrations make this true story even more enjoyable." (April 2009)
- Recommended by Reading Rockets and by The Children's Better Health Institute's Turtle Magazine
- Lemon and Laura have been featured on the NPR program “Here and Now,” the NECN
(New England Cable News) program “The Secret Life of Animals,” MSNBC, WJAR-10 News Providence, WHDH-7 News Boston,
“Dream Reader” (Danvers, MA Community Access Television), “Vibrant Living” (Webradio.net), and Pet
Life Radio with Bob Tarte, as well as in a syndicated article by the Associated Press (article appeared in dozens of media
outlets in the US and worldwide), TIME for Kids, Providence Journal, Boston Herald, Rhode Island Monthly Magazine, So Rhode
Island Magazine, Newport Daily News, Fall River Herald News, Quincy Patriot Ledger, The Day (Connecticut), Majestic Monthly,
New Bedford Standard Times, Sakonnet Times, RI Catholic, Stories for Children, Montreal Review of Books, CM: Canadian Review
of Materials, Resource Links, South Carolina Orangeburg Times, SouthCoastToday.com, MomCentral.com, MyBackyardNews.com, WickedLocal.com
(GateHouse Media New England), and HomeschoolBlogger.com.
- The story has also received media attention in Canada (English and French), the UK, Japan,
Italy, Singapore, Germany, and Taiwan.
- Selected (English and French editions), Approved List of Learning Resources: Nova Scotia
- Winner, Mala Davis Book Award (Fishing Cove School, North Kingstown, RI)
- Featured on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website (Apr. 2009)
- Author appeared at the Rhode Island State House to kick of MS Awareness Month (2009)
- Author will be featured at the 2010 “March Into Reading Event” at Salve Regina
University in Newport, RI
- Blog Reviews: Homeschool Blogger; hi5flashtoys Parenting and Toy blog, Torvex.com (Portsmouth), Vitanet.net