Wednesday, April 01, 2020


Humphrey, Anna. Quack
April 1st 2020 by Albert Whitman
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

David "Shady" Cook has selective mutism; he doesn't speak at school, although he will speak when just his family is present. He does have a best friend, Pouya, who has come to Canada with his mothers after living in a refugee camp. When the boys are out biking and save some ducklings from traffic, one accidentally gets brought home. Shady (so called because he wears sunglasses to deal with his anxiety) becomes attached to the animal, and his parents reluctantly agree to his therapist's idea to have Sven be an emotional support animal. In addition to the duckling who ends up being Svenrietta, Shady is lucky to have his big sister Manda and well as supportive and understanding school personnel. One Svenri starts coming to school, more and more students make connections with Shady. There's a lot of other things going on as well; there's a school dance, a Christmas play, and Manda's interest in joining a film club, even though watching Shady and Pouya takes up her afternoons. Told from alternate viewpoints, including that of Shady's former friend Pearl, we watch as Shady begins to make progress with Svenri at his side, but also how he is devastated when the duck goes missing.
Strengths: An author's note describes Ms. Humphrey's own daughter's struggles with this particular form of anxiety, and talks about some other issues involved. It's good to see that Shady has a support network, a good friend, and an understanding sister. Manda's own struggles are interesting to read. The school activities are realistic and show the different difficulties with which Shady has to deal. He occasionally communicates through black out poetry, which some readers will find intriguing.
Weaknesses: I would have been interested to see how the school was so quickly convinced to have Svenri in the building; we have had support dogs, but they go through a vigorous training process. Svenri is trained a bit, and seems to do well in the classroom, but I think I was thrown by the fact that they found her in the wild.
What I really think: This is a bit young for my students, so I may pass. We are certainly seeing a lot of books dealing with all manner of anxiety issues, so this may be helpful to students who want to understand other viewpoints.

When I was in second grade, there was a girl, Judy, with selective mutism. I was a fairly kind child and tried to be friends with her, but it was very hard. Elementary school children don't necessarily have the ability to deal with people who don't talk to them.

Ms. Yingling

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