Guji Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen
by Chih-Yuan Chen
Topics: family, identity, adoption, being different
Mother Duck hatches four eggs and each baby has its own distinct personality. Guji Guji is rather odd-looking and much bigger and stronger than his siblings. But Mother Duck loves all her children the same " no matter how quick they were, or what they looked like". One day, three nasty crocodiles show up and make fun of Guji Guji for "walking like a duck". Guji Guji hears them and replies "'I am not walking like a duck, I am a duck.'" The crocodiles laugh and point out that he looks and smells just like them and that their shared qualities are perfect for catching and eating "fat, delicious ducks". The crocodiles then tell Guji Guji he must lead the ducks to the bridge the next day so they can eat them "because we are all crocodiles, and crocodiles help each other." After some soul-searching and careful thinking, Guji Guji comes up with a clever solution that takes care of his family.
This is a great story about family, loyalty, acceptance, and identity. Although the overriding topics are serious, there's plenty of humor and funny moments to keep a balance. Mother Duck doesn't notice the large egg that rolls into nest because "She was reading." The corresponding illustration shows a bespectacled Mother Duck, perched on an enormous egg, reading a book with a baby duck hatching on the cover. The illustrations that show Mother Duck teaching her children new skills are hilarious -- the duck family all have their noses in the air with self-satisfied expressions and the illustration that shows Guji Guji as bigger and stronger than his siblings shows him riding a bicycle and pulling a cart with the rest of the family effortlessly up a hill. The illustrations are ink and watercolored drawings in muted greens, browns, and greys with rich blue, orange, and red details. The backgrounds alternate between white, black, and grey creating a strong day and night background rhythm.
Guji Guji's dark moment is moving "'Is it true? Am I a bad crocodile too?'" but his humor quickly returns when he admits that he is neither a bad crocodile nor a duck. He goes on to save the day and continues to live with his adoptive family. An exceptional book for both children and adults - everyone should read this book. A great choice to read aloud and discuss differences with kindergarteners/1st Graders.
Chih-Yuan Chen is an award-winning author who lives and works in Taiwan. Guji Guji was inspired by the story of an adopted friend who grew up looking "different". Chen hopes his story will help children "learn to accept different people and things, and see the world with broader views and minds". Chen's other books include On My Way to Buy Eggs and The Best Christmas Ever.