Duck on a Tractor


  • Duck on a Tractor
  • written and illustrated by David Shannon
  • published by Blue Sky Press/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike has long been a favorite in this house. It’s absurd, it’s fun, and it’s beautifully illustrated. It’s no surprise that a sequel has come out. The only surprise is how long it’s taken. The original came out way back in the Stone Age of 2002. That’s 14 years ago – at least two lifetimes in the publishing industry.

But thankfully, Duck on a Tractor has arrived to carry on the ridiculous barnyard fun. And it’s like revisiting an old friend.


The story begins, as all good stories do, with a wildly improbable idea. Duck, having been emboldened by riding a bicycle, sees a tractor and thinks the only logical thought: “I bet I can drive a tractor.”

So he does.

Come on, admit it. You’ve had the same thought. Maybe not about driving a tractor but certainly about something else that, in retrospect, was very probably well out of your reach. We all do it.

I bet I can build a swing set. I bet I can renovate my own bathroom. I bet I can learn how to SCUBA dive. I bet I can read Moby Dick.

Which is precisely what makes Duck on a Bike and Duck on a Tractor so inspiring (for adults) and relatable (for kids). Duck has no barriers. There’s no hesitation when faced with the unknown. There’s no second guessing what’s possible. Duck simply thinks, “I bet I can do this,” and then he does it.

He makes the unknown known and the impossible possible. And here’s the important part: Kids do this on a daily basis.

It’s this reaching – this stretching our limits to see what’s possible – that’s at the very heart of growing up. Kids learn what they can (and can’t) do…through experimentation. Through trial and error. By actually doing.

It’s only after we’ve grown up that the barriers start to form. Kids like to take risks. In fact, they need to take risks. It’s how they learn and grow. With risk comes reward.

As parents, we need to learn to step back and let them take those risks. And I’m not going to lie – that’s one of the biggest challenges of parenting.

But if we really want our kids to develop into strong individuals, they need to have the confidence that only comes as a result of risk-taking. They need to learn when to trust in themselves and ignore everyone trying to hold them back. They need to believe in themselves.

There are plenty of people who might doubt or question our ability, but if we have the confidence to try – if we have the courage to fail – then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. When faced with the prospect of a duck driving a tractor, the townspeople think it’s an optical illusion. That couldn’t possibly happen. But their beliefs don’t rob Duck of the knowledge that he succeeded in what he set out to do.

He tried something new. He could have failed, but that didn’t stop him from trying. And it didn’t matter what anyone else thought or said. He believed in himself.

And that’s one of the best lessons we can teach our kids.


(Disclosure: Scholastic provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.