STORY STRUCTURE OF DUCK CAKES FOR SALE

Duck Cakes For Sale cover

Duck Cakes For Sale from 1989 is an example of the circular story, in which the picture book ends, but we suspect exactly the same thing is going to happen again, because the main character hasn’t had a self-revelation. Like a Chekhovian short story, picture books often elicit the revelation from the young reader; the character remains unchanged, much like a sit-come character.

This old lady reminds me of a skit of comedian Catherine Tate, in which she plays a woman who can’t bear the smallest sound, including her husband’s chewing of toast: “For God’s sake. We moved to the country for some peace and quiet!”

A lot of children’s books express the idea that the countryside is far superior to the city, but here that general ideology is subverted somewhat when we realise that, ironically, the old lady who has moved to the country for the express purpose of peace and quiet still manages to create her own cacophony.

This is also an example of a story in which a character’s plan goes wrong, and her subsequent plans to fix the situation make everything worse for a while — to a comical degree.

WEAKNESS/NEED

The old woman has moved to the country for some peace and quiet.

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DESIRE

She wants to live the country life, free from noise.

OPPONENT

Though he means well, the man who offers her two duck eggs when she asked for one has set her up nicely for failure.

PLAN

The old woman plans to get a duck.

BATTLE

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The ducks mate with each other and the old woman is overrun. Attempts to deal with this problem are made worse before they come good; once she starts to sell egg and duck products, hoards of customers arrive from the city.

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SELF-REVELATION

The old woman has no self-revelation. The ducks take themselves off.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

We see the old woman hasn’t learnt her lesson — or perhaps she has — will she be happy with one red hen or accept two?