Book Review: The Tale of the Mandarin Duck: A Modern Fable By Bette Midler

Publisher’s Weekly
Bette Midler, photos by Michiko Kakutani, illus. by Joana Avillez. Random House, $18.99 (40p) 
By Staff
Dec 10, 2020

Tale Of The Mandarin Duck
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Inspired by the mysterious 2018 appearance of an exquisite Mandarin duck in Manhattan’s Central Park, this story is rooted in reality yet slyly surreal.

As the fable opens, New Yorkers, “world-famous for their liveliness… looked each other in the eye, and pretty much liked what they saw.” But a pall descends with the advent of cell phones, as people become mesmerized by the small screens in their hands and lose their connectedness to one another as well as to the world around them.

Enter the Mandarin duck, “something so rare that he had to be seen with your own two eyes, and remembered with your heart.” When a perspicacious girl puts away her phone to revel in the duck’s splendor, others do likewise, and discover “that all around them are rare and beautiful birds, with and without feathers.”

There is a crackling creative synergy among the book’s collaborators, each of whom contributes bountifully to the storytelling: actor Midler with a chipper yet resonant text, critic Kakutani with crisp photos capturing the rainbow-hued duck against brilliant fall foliage, and artist Avillez with whimsical black-and-white line art that engagingly depicts city folk in various pursuits.

Ages 3–7.

Pre-Order Today

Release Date: Feb 16, 2020

Author’s agent: Jonathan Ehrlich, Grubman, Shire, Meiselas & Sacks. Illustrators’ agents: (for Kakutani) Kim Schefler, Levine Plotkin & Menin; (for Avillez) Kate Mack, Aevitas Creative Management. (Feb.)

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