Muddy As A Duck Puddle: And Other American Similes

Muddy As A Duck Puddle: And Other American Similes

by Laurie Lawlor

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This collection of similes from A to Z is as zany as a chigger chased around a stump. It includes rib-tickling folk expressions from Americans of all walks of life and all parts of the country in a bodacious tribute to both our country's diversity and pioneer heritage. There is a funny simile and uproarious illustration for each letter of the alphabet. Readers who are


This collection of similes from A to Z is as zany as a chigger chased around a stump. It includes rib-tickling folk expressions from Americans of all walks of life and all parts of the country in a bodacious tribute to both our country's diversity and pioneer heritage. There is a funny simile and uproarious illustration for each letter of the alphabet. Readers who are as curious as cats will enjoy the fascinating author's note that explores the origins of the expressions. A bibliography is included.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
This marvelous ABC picture book presents common American phrases used by ordinary people in everyday life. As the author so nicely indicates in her extensive Author's Note and short Bibliography, folk expressions are actually "proverbial comparisons" that give the English language unique color, history, and flavor. Regional references are nicely evident in comic-style illustrations that personify delightful characters (both human and animal) in bright hues and large sizes on every page. For instance, the title originates from the state of Virginia, as does "happy as a clam at high water." Other phrases come from Wisconsin, Indiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, but some are attributed to geographic areas such as the Ozarks. Southern or Midwestern phrases such as "ornery as a skunk," "easy as shinnying up a thorn tree with an armload of eels," "tight as a new boot," or "keen as a briar" describe exactly what an animal does in it environment so that others have no doubt about the description of a person's behavior. Other jargon, such as "welcome as a polecat at a picnic" and "gritty as fish eggs rolled in sand," was commonly used among cowboys in the American West. The youngest children will find the book filled with hilarious images. Expressions might not make any sense at all, but any reader will enjoy the silliness and far-fetched adventures. Older readers will recognize many similes, especially as they discern real life from incredible humor. Their ability to discriminate between clearly imaginative renditions and vivid reality opens a great window into American history, geography, and Language Arts. Students will gain meaningful insight into the nation's cultural mix while sharing laughs thorough many read-alouds with partners or individual exploration by traveling through different locations of the United States using colorful expressions. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Lawlor has collected 26 "proverbial comparisons"—one for each letter of the alphabet—that are uniquely American. Some may be familiar—"Jittery as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs"—and others perhaps more obscure—"Zany as a chigger chased around a stump." Long's digitally rendered cartoon illustrations feature bright, flat colors and help to explain the similes while adding significantly to the humor. Back matter includes detailed notes that provide the place of origin and a clear breakdown of the meaning. Useful as an introduction to colorful language, the book could also serve as a preamble to a unit on the American tall tale and its propensity to exaggerate.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Publishers Weekly
Lawlor’s (The School at Crooked Creek) collection of regional American expressions will remind readers that not everyone speaks like a newscaster and that American English once had real character. There are enough similes here to smother a cow: “Ugly as a mud fence dabbed over with toad frogs,” “Lazy as a hound that leans against the fence to bark” and “Gritty as fish eggs rolled in sand,” to name a few. A definition of simile is found on the copyright page, and each one is defined (“Gritty as fish eggs” is a “cowboy’s definition of a brave person”). Arranged in alphabetical order, the similes, most of which hail from Appalachia, are illustrated by Long (Tickle the Duck!) with big, flat-perspective spreads peopled by characters with googly eyes and goofy expressions. Most are unfortunately literal-minded, illustrating the expression itself and not a situation in which the simile might have been used. But they help make the more opaque expressions clear and should draw giggles. A good start for an English lesson about adding color to one’s writing. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
From A to Z, Lawlor has collected American folk sayings to tickle the funnybone. The similes, as coupled with Long's comic cartoon-like illustrations, will linger in readers' imaginations. The picture that accompanies "Jittery as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs" traps a nervous cat anxiously clutching his tail in the midst of obliviously rocking adults. "Happy as a clam at high water" depicts a smug clam looking up at a fox and a bird, both unable to catch him up in their claws. The alphabetical list seems a rather weak glue to hold the sayings together, but the significant author's note provides ample descriptions of these "proverbial comparisons," most of which hail from the Ozarks. The origin of each simile is explored, along with extra historical information where needed. Budding writers may well pick up a few new sayings from the body of the text, but for many readers, the backmatter will be the most interesting feature of the book. Whether this detracts from or enhances the reading experience depends on whether readers are as curious as a cat or ornery as a skunk. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Laurie Lawlor grew up in a family enamored with the theater. Along with her five brothers and sisters she spent summers in a summer stock repertory company in a small mountain town in Colorado that was run by their mother (costumer, cook, accountant, and resident psychiatrist) and their father (artistic director). Lawlor's father liked to joke that she "spent kindergarten under the piano." She says, "I was the only one with stage fright. I preferred the back stage, where I shook the sheet metal to simulate thunder for storm scenes or helped paint rubber chickens for props.

Coming from a theatrical family with a highly developed imagination gave Lawlor some advantages. She soon learned that if she wanted some peace and quiet, she could simply invent terrifying stories bout characters who happened to inhabit the family's home. In this way Lawlor was able to convince her gullible younger brothers and sisters to stay out of the attic or suffer the wrath of Evil Pan. In this clever way Lawlor acquired her first studio. There she was able to write and read and "nobody," she says, "dared bother me."

According to Laurie Lawlor, her "very first characters were strange and fabulous creatures who haunted the attic of my first childhood home -- a run-down two-flat on a busy street in LaGrange, Illinois. My characters' names were Jack Frost and the Fat Lady."

Laurie says, "Conveniently for me, a little boy my age lived in our building. Poor Greggy! Whenever he got scared, his big eyes got even bigger. His mouth made a perfect O-shape, and he howled like a dog. I made it my business to use the magic of stories about Jack Frost and the Fat Lady to terrify Greggy. His howling gave me a very satisfied feeling. This was probaby the earliest indication that I would one day become a writer."

It was when Lawlor was in about the third grade that she decided to become a writer. That was when she made the amazing discovery that she did not have to tell these scary stories over and over again. She could simply write them down. Her best friend in third grade, who was an excellent artist, illustrated the books she wrote. They had such a good time creating the books that they decided to work together, making books, when they grew up. Unfortunately, Laurie's friend became a dental hygienist, Laurie, however, trained as a journalist and then went on to write books.

Laurie worked on the high school newspaper and eventually went to journalism school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She worked for many years as a freelance writer and editor before devoting herself on a more full-time basis to the creation of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. She teaches writing workshops to elementary and junior high school students throughout the country as an artist-in-residence. She is a part-time faculty member of Chicago's Columbia College, where she teaches writing to under

Ethan Long is a freelance illustrator who works in many different styles, including mixed media, linework, and airbrush. He illustrated "The Confessions and Secrets of Howard J. Fingerhut" by Esther Hershenhorn. He lives in Orlando, Florida. To learn more about Ethan, visit his Web site at

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