Animal Acts

Two new children's books by East End authors

“It’s as hard as it looks, you gotta read ’em dumb books,” Loudon Wainwright sings in “Bein' a Dad,” one of his inimitable explorations of family life, “and you end up despising Walt Disney.”

How often I’ve thought of those lyrics as a parent reading children’s books, their often graceless pages self-indulgently dense with too many words. Forget the hair-raising intimations of mortality in “Goodnight Moon,” or the humbling unconditional love of “The Giving Tree.” It’s kid stuff. Anybody can do it, right?

Susan Verde’s got the idea. The East Hamptoner’s latest, “You and Me” (Abrams, $14.95), simply and clearly communicates a tale of friendship and life-altering chance. “If that day had chosen a different way to unfold, ours is a story that might not have been told,” an orange tabby thinks one day while dusting his furniture.

He’s a traditional sort — he pads about in slippers, a teapot and the morning paper adorn his breakfast table — and, above all, he’s thoughtful: “What if I had slept in, covers pulled up to my chin?” and a stuffed toy mouse by his side. “What if my bicycle had a flat? Or,” he wonders, getting to the plot device that brings him to his “forever friend,” a cat of a purplish hue, “if I hadn’t gone back to fetch my hat.” (It blows off in a gust, requiring a certain someone’s retrieval — in other words, “Serendipity, perfect timing, all the stars aligning.”)

What if? The implications are profound, in anyone’s life, and usually best not dwelled upon — the wrong turn, the missed connection, the chance meeting, the decision unmade that results in an unalterable trajectory. In this case, it’s one of feline felicity.

“You and Me” is deftly illustrated in ink, gouache, and watercolor by Peter H. Reynolds, whose ample use of white space complements his wordsmith counterpart’s concision.

“A Duck’s Tail”

The Flanders Big Duck. What a happy thing.

Rose Nigro of that fine hamlet — bounded by green parkland and glittering waters, dotted with repair shops and hard times, it contains multitudes — has put together a tribute worthy of the roadside attraction. “Have you heard the story?” she writes. “It’s been whispered far and wide. There’s a Duck in Flanders. It’s so big, you can walk inside!”

As some of us remember doing — for the purchase of eggs, don’t you know.

“A Duck’s Tail” (Reeves Bay ArtWorks, $26.95) is history as much as it is a story: The history of a 1931 landmark now on the National Register of Historic Places, 10 tons of reinforced concrete with a Model T Ford’s taillights for eyes, and a story of its banishment in the face of encroaching development to a stretch of road where only hunters and a few tick-addled hikers tread.

Its tail may have drooped in sadness those years, but after sufficient civic outcry the Duck came back to its old duck farm roost, and we’re lucky to have it — novelty architecture as iconic as the giant deep-fried confection atop Randy’s Donuts in Los Angeles, and better for you.

The illustrations by Tom H. John, a designer in the film and TV biz, have a midcentury whimsy, and he’s included a search game for kids involving, yes, hidden eggs.

The book is available in the Big Duck’s body cavity gift shop and at BookHampton. The formerly decrepit outbuildings behind it on Route 24, by the way, have been refurbished and transformed into exhibits on the history of duck farming on Long Island. Which is swell news. The Duck deserves all the creature comforts it can get.