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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top 100 Picture Books #98: Duck On a Bike by David Shannon

#98 Duck On a Bike by David Shannon (2002)
20 points

I can read this one over and over at storytime. Kids love it. – Angela Reynolds

I confess that I’ve read this book in storytimes so many times that I pretty much have it memorized.  So basically, if anyone wants me to do an impromptu reading of Duck On a Bike at their next cocktail party, I’m your woman.

PW describes the book this way, “Shannon serves up a sunny blend of humor and action in this delightful tale of a Duck who spies a red bicycle one day and gets ‘a wild idea.’ Sure enough, in no time flat, he’s tooling around the farmyard. A succession of his barnyard friends greet him politely enough, but their private responses range from scornful (‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen,’ from Cow) to boastful (‘You’re still not as fast as me,’ from Horse) to wistful (‘I wish I could ride a bike just like Duck,’ from Mouse). Then a herd of kids rides down the road in a blur of dust; they park their bikes and head indoors. A wordless spread records the sublime moment when the animals all gather with identical wide-eyed looks and sly smiles. Readers can almost see what they’re thinking, and sure enough, the next spread shows them all zipping around on bikes, with Duck in the lead.”

It’s weird, but you kind of expect some sort of comeuppance for Duck.  I mean, talk about thumbing your nose at the gods.  He stands up on the seat!  No hands (slash wings)!  When I read this book to some kids the literal-minded amongst them express some concern that Duck is not wearing a helmet.  I tell them that they have a very good point.  Perhaps the rules for ducks are different?  They’re not buying it.

PW said of it, “Varying perspectives including the chicken’s-eye-view of Duck’s bike wheel looming large provide plenty of good-natured dash. Add to all this the abundant opportunity for youngsters to chime in with barnyard responses (‘M-o-o-o’; ‘Cluck! Cluck!’), and the result is one swell read-aloud, packed with freewheeling fun.”

Booklist took it one step further, giving the book a star and saying, “The double-page spread of the cow, pig, horse, et al., pedaling away (some looking particularly fetching in helmets) is worth the price of the book. In fact, this whole bright book is tons of fun. The oversize format nicely accommodates Shannon’s sly art, which fills up the pages. Each animal has a distinctive expression that can be easily seen by kids in the back row at story hour–the perfect place to share this exuberant piece.”

Horn Book was loquacious with its praise. “Rarely have the familiar barnyard animals been reiterated in a picture book with such panache. From the title page-a duck’s-eye view of our hero Duck regarding a parked bike with wild surmise-to the final image of his potential next ride (a tractor), the simple events are developed with creativity, good humor, and skill.”

The starred Kirkus Review, alas, ended with, “A ‘quackerjack’ of a terrific escapade.” *groan*

  • And check out this kinda crazy mural of the book made for a baby’s room.

Finally, I saw that this video had a lot of views on the old YouTube.  There’s a reason.  Child readers are hard to come by.  This one’s really quite good.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I love watching the dawning recognition of what is about to come, when an audience sees the page where the animals eye the abandoned bikes.

  2. This one almost made my list. It’s a recent discovery for me, but a huge story time hit. My absolutely favorite page is the same one Danae mentions – that spread showing all the animals’ faces as they get the idea to climb aboard the kids’ abandoned bikes. I love how their faces say it all, with no words necessary.

  3. Duck on a Bike is the selected book for 2013 One Book 4 Colorado! This project, currently in its 2nd year, aims to give a copy of the same book to every 4 year old in Colorado, all 70,000+ of them, through public libraries, Denver Preschool Program preschools, and Reach Out and Read CO health clinics. Librarians and ECE educators nominated titles, we narrowed it to 3, and CO residents voted; Duck on a Bike was the winner! David Shannon visited CO to help us celebrate the project and give away the books and was absolutely wonderful. Check out the Facebook page ( and website ( for much more info and photos.