Eyes can be a terrific way to identify the bad people in a book. Here are some examples : he had “eyes of palest blue (that) showed no warmth whatsoever” … and of another “his smile was as big as that of a crocodile … (his) peculiar cabbage green eyes were curiously blank.”
This book Duck for Danger is filled with gloriously evil characters and wonderful loyal friends. There should be a warning on the cover – be careful who you trust.
Micky, short for Michaela, and her mother have travelled to London to sort out some legal affairs since her dad has died. Both are excited about the trip but following a stopover in Bangkok Mrs Massey falls ill and on arrival in London she is rushed off the plane and taken straight to hospital.
The airport authorities are taking care of Micky when two people turn up claiming to be relatives. One of them is the man described above with the pale blue eyes and the other is a woman – “her pallid lips cracked into a mirthless smile, barring frighteningly large, very long and strong-looking teeth”. These people have the slightly abhorrent sounding name of Smalley-Hughes. Before Micky can ask any questions she is whisked out of the airport and put into the back of a vehicle that looks strangely like a hearse then on arrival at the home of the Smalley-Hughes’ she finds herself locked in an upstairs room containing a cupboard filled with human sized cloth dummies.
If you are able to find a copy of this wonderful book, at this point in the story I am sure you will be holding your breath like I was hoping Micky can escape this mad house. I can tell you that she does escape but her adventures are only just beginning. Micky is on the run in London. Luckily she finds a wonderful boy called Nizbo who knows this city like the back of his hand. The mystery is part of the title. Micky finds a duck in a box of chocolates. Showing great restraint, Ann Grocott does not reveal this detail until page 60. “Both of them stared the object in Micky’s hand. It was a small but exquisite work of art. A duck, made of gold and encrusted with jewels. Each wing glittered with the green fire of emeralds. The breast was a glory of sky-blue sapphires. The beak was showered with amber stones the colour of a tigress’s eyes. A sprinkling of icy flashing diamonds trailed from it jaunty tail to its neck and the eyes of the wonderful ornamental duck were two wine-red rubies.”
Micky and Nizbo know this treasure is extremely valuable. They know others are looking for it. Micky is desperate to find the owner so she puts a cryptic advertisement in The Times and waits for a reply. Mean while the villains seem to be staking out the hospital making it impossible for Micky to contact her mum. Micky herself also has several narrow escapes from their clutches.
My own bookshelves at home are crammed full of favourite books. With no access to my own school library for the next year I am working my way along these shelves re-reading favourites. Duck for Danger is a book I first read over twenty years ago and it is a book I often recommend as a great class read-a-loud. It is of course long out of print but you might be lucky and find this terrific action packed thriller in an Australian Primary School library. I can only say I hope you do. As far as I can discover Ann Grocott only wrote two books. I would love to know why. Duck for Danger is a book that has not dated even slightly and I know many middle and upper primary students would love this tension-filled tale.
Sorry the photo of the cover is a little strange. There were no images of this cover so I took my own photograph.