My Little Story Corner

For the love of picture books

The Duck and the Darklings: Teaching Notes

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resized_9781743312612_224_297_FitSquareThe Duck and the Darklings, Glenda Millard (author), Stephen Michael King (illus.), Allen & Unwin, 2014.  


Shortlisted in the CBCA’s Picture Book of the Year 2015 awards, Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King have produced something stellar and truly special. If ever there was a book about hope, friendship and triumph, with a glint of desolation and an explosion of warmth, then ‘The Duck and the Darklings’ is the one.  

Peterboy and his Grandpapa live in the land of Dark. Below the surface they dwell in a hole, “built with care, lit with love”. All is spoiled and broken, dark and gloomy, and only the youngsters dare to face the world in search of comforts to take back home. This is because the old ones have disremembered yesterdays, sunups and sundowns. From what begins of Peterboy’s observation of a tiny glimmer of light, he is able to spark a dazzle in the eyes of his Grandpapa, and longs to keep it there. His search for a scrap of wonderfulness leads him to the discovery of a downy-hearted duck called Idaduck. Although ambivalent at first, Grandpapa’s glow of forbidden fondness is soon restored as he nurses the duck back to health. With Grandpapa’s loving memories returning and the most magnificent fare-thee-well for a now mended duck, Idaduck spreads her wings. The Darklings watch with hope in their hearts, and the world becomes strangely bright and beautiful once more.  

Written with such poetic phrasing, gorgeously constructed sentences and use of alliterations, Millard’s text is intriguing and captivating. Her language is creatively descriptive in a discerning yet compelling way. Stephen Michael King’s illustrations are absolutely spellbinding. The Darklings are drawn as simple outlines, set against all the light and shade that make the backgrounds so bold and striking. His mixture of pen, brush, ink and digital effects, and wide angled scenes of shapes and lines are so masterfully combined to capture the depth and impact of the story.  

‘The Duck and the Darklings’, with its brilliant author / illustrator pairing, is a heartwarming story of family, friendship and optimism. It tenderly connects the importance of remembering fond memories of the past and how that influences a brighter future. Children from five years old will certainly hold a candle to this shining star.

Review by Romi Sharp



Before Reading:
Ask, do you have a favourite memory? How does it make you feel when you remember it? How might you feel if you didn’t remember your good memories? How do you like to share your memories?
Look at the cover. What do you think this story might be about? Looking at the picture of the boy, what do you think he might be searching for?  

During Reading:
Why do you think they live in the cave? Why is the world so dark outside? Why do they need to go to the finding fields?
What does it mean, ‘The light put longing into Peterboy’s heart’? What does ‘wanderlust’ mean? Can you imagine this colourful world Grandpapa speaks of in his stories?  

After Reading:
Why do you think Grandpapa held his memories close to his heart? What did Peterboy notice about Grandpapa when he talked about his memories? What was it about Idaduck that Peterboy thought would help put the light into Grandpapa’s eyes? Why didn’t Grandpapa want to share their home with the duck at first? How did he feel about her later?
Why couldn’t they keep Idaduck, and why did Grandpapa want her farewell to be so memorable?
What does it mean, ‘…the wounds man had made’? Do you think the Darklings future will be brighter from now onwards? Why, how will they be able to come out of living in darkness?

Curriculum Activities


– Write a poem to a loved one including some fond memories of times you spent together.
– Write a persuasive text arguing the benefits or disadvantages to living in a cave / in the dark.
– Write an information text on caring for injured animals.
– Script Writing. Write a play about one of the scenes from the book. Act it out (props or none).
– Alliteration
“…crept into cracks and crevices, corners and crannies.” ,”…squeezed small speckled surprises into his slippers.”
Write a sentence using alliteration about a place or an action.
– Word Study / Comprehension.
Find / discuss the meanings to the interesting / unusual words in the book, such as disremembered, spiderling fingers, trickle, wonderfulness, wanderlust, oompapas.
Write them in your own sentences.
– Letter Study.
Find all the words that begin with ‘s’, ‘c’, ‘f’, and so on. Display each letter on a separate chart.

Words can also be divided into columns, including noun, verb, adjective.

– Read other books about the power of memory or the importance of our older generations.
‘When I see Grandma’ by Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom,
‘Celia and Nonna’ by Victoria Lane and Kayleen West,
‘Harry Helps Grandpa Remember’ by Karen Tyrrell,
‘Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge’ by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas.

– Read other books by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King. Compare writing style and illustrating similarities and differences.

– Read other books by Glenda Millard.

– Read other books by Stephen Michael King.

What are your favourite books? Which resonate most with you?


Measurement (Time).
Create a timeline or time wheel showing some of your most memorable moments, in order of occurrence. Eg. Baby sister born (2013), won a trophy (2014), lost a tooth (2015), etc.

 Number / Area / Modeling.
Pose a question, such as ‘If the Darklings’ world was 10 metres square, and new trees grew every two metres, how many new trees would there be altogether?’
Step 1: Draw It. Using a grid of 10 x 10, draw a tree every two squares, starting in the top left hand corner.
Step 2: Count It. How many different ways can you count the trees? By 1s, 2s, 5s, multiply horizontal by vertical, count in columns / rows, etc.
Step 3: Model It. Make a model of the area using matchsticks and playdough (for the trees) on the grid (laminate for durability).
Step 4: Discuss It. Discuss the methods for resolving the answer and different strategies used to count.  


– Earth studies. Explore human and nature destruction to the earth.
– Reflections: Light

Kidspot’s experiment on ‘refraction’ (bending light).

Make your own candle experiment.

This site explores reflections through mirrors, using a variety of materials and concepts.

This site includes a range of games, experiments, videos and  facts that all relate to ‘light’. Some are ‘light and shadows’, ‘light sources and reflections’, making rainbows and bending light.

Arts / Crafts.

– Paint a scene from the book using light and shade, line and silhouettes, with mixed tools like pens and brushes, and you can even scan the picture and add digital effects!

– Design and create an inventive object that makes light. Eg. Candle hat.
Materials could include: toilet tube, paper plate, construction paper, cellophane, torch, tape, textas, other decorative craft items.

– Make a kaleidoscope.
– Make shadow puppets of characters from the book (or your own).
Shine a torch on the puppets against a wall and role play the story (you can use your script from the Literacy Script Writing activity).
Example here:
– Use a light box to explore shapes and objects.
Use your ‘spiderling fingers’ to paint and print-make with cling wrap on a light box.
Search for ‘scraps of wonderfulness’ in a sand / salt box sitting on a light box.
If you don’t have a light box, you can make one!
See easy DIY light box instructions with different boxes here.

– Create and/or collect memories using photographs, souvenirs, drawings, items from visited places (brochures, tickets), and display them in a scrapbook, photo frame or special keepsake box.
About me album:
Craft Stick Photo Frame:
Memory Box:


– Play Murder in the Dark.
– Play Hide n Seek in the dark using torches. (Look for people or hidden objects)
– Do some moon and star gazing. Use a telescope if you have one!

Visit my Pinterest board with more activities for The Duck and the Darklings here.

Lessons by Romi Sharp.
© My Little Story Corner 2015.
All sourced resources have been credited.
These teaching notes are for personal and classroom use only and are not permitted for commercial use without written permission and credit given to My Little Story Corner.

Author: Romi Sharp

Qualified teacher, copywriter, reviewer, picture book writer and fanatic, acting publicist to the book stars, and constantly immersed in the world of children's literature. Founder of Books On Tour PR & Marketing, Just Write For Kids and My Little Story Corner.

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