French Ducks in Venice

Overview

A magical, lyrical, beautifully illustrated tale about friendship and healing--and the joys and risks of staying open to love, even in the face of loss.

Siblings George and Cecile live in Venice, California, but think of themselves as French ducks. They have an important friend, Polina Panova, who conjures magical dresses of thread, silk, and velvet . . . of grass, pieces of night sky, and strawberry jam. To the ducks, who delight in her daily visits, Polina is a princess. But ...

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Overview

A magical, lyrical, beautifully illustrated tale about friendship and healing--and the joys and risks of staying open to love, even in the face of loss.

Siblings George and Cecile live in Venice, California, but think of themselves as French ducks. They have an important friend, Polina Panova, who conjures magical dresses of thread, silk, and velvet . . . of grass, pieces of night sky, and strawberry jam. To the ducks, who delight in her daily visits, Polina is a princess. But when Polina's prince--who makes movies almost as luminous as her dresses--decides to go away, life on the canal changes, and so does Polina. What are two steadfast and affectionate French ducks to do? Save admit that every broken heart mends on its own time, in its own way? From an acclaimed Y A author and a talented debut illustrator comes a storybook classic full of light and hush, wisdom and whimsy, about patient friendship and the healing power of time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
YA author Freymann-Weyr (After the Moment) examines grief in her first picture book; a dusting of Hollywood glamour makes newcomer McGuire’s rich digital illustrations, which have the feel of concept art for an animated film, an inspired choice. The heroine, Polina Panova, is a lovely dressmaker in Venice, Calif., whose filmmaker boyfriend has left her. She’s bereft, and her friends Georges and Cécile, ducks who live in the canal behind her house, are indignant. “I will start looking for her new prince,” Georges announces. “Ducks do not find princes,” Cécile scolds. “Princesses find them.” Freymann-Weyr’s mannered narrative voice keeps emotions firmly in check (“This will not do,” are Georges’s harshest words), and her storytelling gifts are unmistakable: Polina’s dresses, she writes, are made with “grass, flowers, pieces of the night sky, and strawberry jam.” There’s virtue in presenting a portrait of loss with a spoonful of sugar; readers learn how to talk about hurt (“I will always be a little bit sad,” says Polina, explaining that time doesn’t erase pain completely), while McGuire’s cinematically lit pictures recall classic Disney images of winsome animals consoling star-crossed heroines. Ages 5–10. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
There's virtue in presenting a portrait of loss with a spoonful of sugar; readers learn how to talk about hurt, while McGuire's cinematically lit pictures recall classic Disney images of winsome animals consoling star-crossed heroines.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
They aren't really French ducks; the two ducks of the story just call themselves that. And it isn't really the Venice you might have been expecting; it's Venice, California. The woman whom Cecile and Georges call a princess isn't really a princess, either, though Polina is beautiful, as are the dresses she fashions of "thread, silk, cotton, and velvet. Also grass, flowers, pieces of the night sky, and strawberry jam." The two ducks worry when Polina's gentleman friend, moviemaker Sebastian (who is not really a prince), disappears from her life, leaving her "a Russian princess without a prince," or rather, a non-princess without a non-prince. So with the help of "the sky and the ocean," the ducks bring Polina some of the "golden, soothing light" of the sunrise, which inspires her to make even more beautiful dresses. She will always be "a little bit sad that Sebastian Sterling had to go," but now she can be a little bit happy, too. Freymann-Weyr's overly long, self-conscious, and sentimental text isn't really for children, although McGuire's moping Polina could double for any standard-issue Disney princess attended by her own animated, singing and dancing, animal or bird companions, who cheer her up when she is thwarted in love—minus the catchy Disney tunes. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Georges and Cécile live on the canals of Venice, CA, but imagine themselves to be French ducks. Each day, they observe the work of Russian dressmaker Polina Panova, who weaves beautiful dresses made partially of thread, silk, grass, and pieces of the night sky. Her handsome, movie-star boyfriend, Sebastian Sterling, moves out of her house one night, so Georges sets out to find a present to cheer her up. He finally flies all the way to the horizon and is given a long, golden piece of light from where the sky and ocean meet. Polina thanks him for the wonderful gift, but still she is sad. She stays inside her house for more than a week, working on new dresses, as Georges grows more and more concerned. When she emerges, she is still a little sad, but has used the gift of golden light to create beautiful dresses with a magical glow that she knows will be special for many women. McGuire's digitally created illustrations have a painterly look that captures the nuances of light and shadow representing Polina's moods. This book will be enjoyed by those who like stories with a fairy-tale feel. The writing is somewhat stilted—in places it has short, choppy sentences—but as a whole, it is better suited to more competent than beginning readers.—Amy Commers, South St. Paul Public Library, MN
Kirkus Reviews
Preteens weaned on Disney princesses may swoon for this melancholy modern fairy tale starring the lovely Russian dressmaker Polina Panova who is neither a French duck nor from Venice, Italy, as the title suggests. No, Polina is from Venice, Calif., the Venice with "surfers, bungalows, and seagulls," and she's adored by her two talking French duck friends Georges and Cécile. Polina sews her extraordinary dresses with silk and velvet, but also--magically--with flowers, jam and the night sky. Her live-in boyfriend, the handsome Sebastian Sterling (surely a prince, say the ducks), is a filmmaker in Los Angeles. One day, the fiercely loyal ducks spy Sterling with "the kind of suitcase you pack when you are going away forever." Polina is sad to lose her love, but she throws herself into her dressmaking, which, in time, soothes her heartache--always an inspiring lesson for the romantically rejected. Debut illustrator McGuire's digitally created, atmospheric canalscapes are deliciously infused with a soft light that reflects the dreamlike hush of Polina's mystery-laden world. The oddly stilted and meandering story, however, isn't nearly as enchanting as either the artwork or Polina's dresses--the quirkiness feels contrived, and oft-repeated phrases such as "happy and peaceful and amazed" may just wear thin. A splendidly illustrated but somewhat awkwardly spun tale of inner strength found when love is lost. (Illustrated fiction. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763641733
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 12/13/2011
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 1,445,717
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Garret Freymann-Weyr is the author of many acclaimed books for young adults, including MY HEARTBEAT, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, STAY WITH ME, and AFTER THE MOMENT. About French Ducks in Venice, her first picture book, she says, "I used to feed the ducks in Central Park and was thrilled to find them in Venice." She currently lives in North Carolina.

Erin McGuire is a fine artist and freelance illustrator. This is her first picture book. She lives in Texas.

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