Pip and Zip

h1 June 14th, 2022 by jules


I love to see those well-crafted picture books that address, in one way or another, the COVID-19 pandemic — the ones that are a snapshot of these unsettling times. Elana K. Arnold’s Pip and Zip (Roaring Brook Press, August 2022), illustrated by Doug Salati, is a new one that, in particular, captures the beginning of it all when the whole world seemed to shut down.

As you can see in the opening spread, pictured below, it’s the early days of the pandemic and one family has had enough of two things: screens and being inside. As they walk outdoors, they see neighbors and indications that everything is far from usual: “the restaurant we used to go to for Saturday morning pancakes had all its windows dark like sleeping eyes.”

At the nearby lake, they find an egg in the water and decide that they “can’t just leave it here!” Mom puts it in her pocket, and they head home. After they find and rescue another one, they ask their friend Ted what it is that they’d found. He responds: “Sometimes ducks don’t know what to do with the first eggs they lay so they drift to the bottom of the lake and that’s that.” Ted also says that if “things weren’t so topsy-turvy upside down,” he’d take the eggs to the wildlife center where experts could take care of them. But the wildlife center is currently only open for emergencies. (I like how Arnold sometimes puts Ted’s own words in quotes, thereby emphasizing the inability we all felt to articulate what was going on in those early days: “But since things ‘were the way they were’ and everyone was supposed to stay home …” she writes.)

Ted loans the family an incubator. They put the eggs inside, adjust the knobs, and wait. A lot. Tying the waiting-on-the-ducks to the sense of unease the world felt then, Arnold writes: “But everyone was waiting anyway all across the neighborhood all around the world … the whole planet waited with us. And nothing happened, nothing changed.” Ah. True. And sorrowful. And lovely. (You do read Arnold’s YA novels as well, right? She is a fiercely good writer.)

But then something does change for the family. Joy! One day they hear a tiny “Pip,” a crack, and a “Zip.” The family is thrilled. Even Ted is impressed: “In all my years working with birds, this is a first.” The family eventually releases the ducks, and then they themselves also head out “into the great blue world,” talking to neighbors outside — and maskless. It’s not explicitly stated, but one gets the sense that these are the days in which vaccines have finally been approved.

In a closing note, Arnold explains that the story is based on a true one she and her family experienced but that it has “one foot in real life and one foot in fiction.” (For one, they had no neighbor who was a certified wildlife rehabilitator.) There is a also a page called “What Should You Do If You Find a Duck Egg?” with a note about contacting your local wildlife rescue agency if you find unattended eggs or wild animals in need. Links with more information are also provided (National Audobon Society, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, etc.).

Salati’s warmly colored illustrations capture a loving, caring familiy — and community — during an uncertain, scary time, and he draws ducks really, really well. Here are some spreads so that the art can do the talking. …


“Once, when we all had to stay home for the whole long springtime, when schools were closed and work was closed and everything fun was canceled, after we were all so bored of TV and computers and video games and screens of every kind,
Dad said, ‘Let’s take a walk.'”

(Click spread to enlarge)



“An egg!”
(Two images above: Click either one to see spread in its entirety
and read the full text)


“But since things ‘were the way they were’ and everyone was supposed to stay home the wildlife center was open only for emergencies. And two eggs that probably wouldn’t hatch didn’t count as emergencies. So he loaned us an incubator and told us to wait and see. We put the eggs inside and adjusted the knobs.”
(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


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PIP AND ZIP. Text copyright © 2022 by Elana K. Arnold. Illustrations © 2022 by Doug Salati and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Roaring Brook Press, New York.

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