The Bodley Head Ltd

Vintage Books, 6 years +, The Bodley Head Ltd

A Duck Called Angelique

Words by Janice Duvoisin

Illustration by Roger Duvoisin

Published by The Bodley Head Ltd 1962

As a young child, my grandparents would read me this story when I visited their home. I thought it was hilarious that a duck had been named Angelique but what I loved most was that this tattered book was also read to my mother when she was little. I liked to imagine my mother as a small child sitting in my grandmother's arms and laughing at the same story.  

Angelique was the happiest duck in France until her dear mistress Madame Germaine came home with Coco the black poodle and everything changed. The story commences by describing the simple and ordered life of Angelique. "Every morning she walked to the gate and back. She smelled the lilacs if it was spring, the roses if it was summer. Every now and then she took a bite of lettuce."

Coco has never seen a duck before and enjoys chasing Angelique. Upset that her happy life has been ruined, Angelique decides to run away and spends the night in the Luxembourg Gardens. When Angelique rescues a sparrow from being eaten by a cat, she realises that she should be at home with Madame Germaine. The book ends with Angelique gradually befriending Coco and we see a duck and a poodle sharing bathwater and the job of warming eggs. The story is simple, very sweet and spoken with a gentle humour. 

It seems likely that Janice Duvoisin wrote this story for children to relate to when a younger sibling is brought home from the hospital, to help prepare them for the imminent massive and sudden change.    

The illustration layout is a combination of black line and coloured mixed medium artwork that is alternated through the story. Coloured artwork is created with a muted palette of mustard yellow, brown, aqua and teal green with a brilliant white duck. Roger Duvoisin's illustrations are very elegant. 

I love that part of the story is set within the Luxembourg Gardens. When I originally read this book as a child, I had never been to France and the lake filled with little sailing boats looked like a kid's paradise. As an adult re-reading this story, I have been to Paris a number of times and it was more than wonderful to see the Luxembourg Gardens central to the book's plot - as it is the location where my husband and I celebrated our engagement.  

Reviewed by Georgia White