Laughter and a lot of it!

posted in: Ethan Long | 13

Some books make you cry, some books give you food for thought, some books excite you, but books which make you laugh and laugh and laugh till tears are rolling down your cheeks are really worth their weight in gold. And for us, we’ve just found one such book: Tickle the Duck! by Ethan Long.

A touch-and-feel book of the highest order, great for babies and young children alike (both J (1) and M (4) adore this book), Ethan Long has created a grumpy duck who absolutely. does. not. want. to. be. tickled.

Unfortunately for the duck, tickling him is pretty much irresistible; first there is his soft, furry tummy crying out to be felt, later on a rubbery foot and a fluffy armpit. Despite his protestations, each time the duck is tickled he bursts into howls of laughter, but still, he refuses to give in. Eventually, at the top of his voice he yells “STOP TICKLING ME!


There is a moment’s peace whilst the grumpy duck fumes, but then something in his stance softens… “Well, come to think of it, maybe you could just tickle me a little right here.“… and before you know it, grumpy duck’s mood has changed completely and he’s asking for more!


If you can let your hair down a little to really get into the spirit of making the duck laugh, I can absolutely guarantee you and your young readers will end up smiling and giggling with this book. It’s a situation we’re all familiar with as parents – the kid wants to be a little aloof and rejects our kisses, or cuddles (or tickles), but actually, deep down, when he or she can be brave enough to let their guard down, they adore the affection and play, and for capturing and so eloquently expressing this truthful experience of childhood and parenting Ethan Long’s book already scores highly.

But this is a great book for several more reasons too! I love the book because it’s genuinely interactive – not only do we interact with the book, but inevitably we end up tickling each other and trying to make each other laugh. Indeed, Tickle the Duck! allows reader and listener to be plain silly, and sometimes we all need that little bit of help to really let go and play. I also think that the use of different materials to feel is put to exception use here – rather that just pictures of animals with (at best) a list of adjectives (you know the sort of shiny Dorling Kindersley touch and feel book I mean, I’m sure), here there is a real reason to touch the fabric and run your fingers through it.

Last but not least, I think this book is great because the humour genuinely works for both adult and child – so many books (and especially films) nominally aimed at children require an adult’s knowledge of the world to find them funny, to get the double entendres, but not so with this book.

So yes, as you’ve no doubt gather, Tickle the Duck! comes highly recommended indeed.

Mostly Tickle the Duck! has inspired lots of tickling and telling of (terrible) jokes, which has all be great fun. But it also inspired us to make our own touch-and-feel book, combining fabric scraps and The Shape Game. Here’s how we did it:


1. M, J and I went through all my fabric scraps and chose a selection which included all different sorts of textures. We ended up with some velvet, lace curtain, fake fur and satin to name but a few.


TIP: If you don’t have a stash of fabric scraps, you could (1) use bits of old odd socks, worn out t-shirts, jeans ripped beyond being cool, and any other fabric that would otherwise perhaps be thrown out, or (2) visit a fabric or upholstery store – they often have (cheap or even free) remnants, scraps or sample books that you could use.

2. Next we made our basic book to later fill with the fabric scraps. We cut a load of pieces of card (ours were about A5 size, but yours could be whatever size you like) and punched holes in them using a hole puncher, taking care that all the holes lined up with each other. We happened to have a couple of pieces of card we’d used for marbling which we decided to repurpose as our book cover, but your cover could be just another couple of blank pieces of card which you decorate however you like.


TIP: If you don’t want to make your own book you could just use a blank notebook from a stationery shop. We made our own book because (1) we had the time and (2) the pages with fabric stuck on them get quite thick and we wanted to make sure there was enough room for them without getting squashed.

3. We returned to our scraps of fabric and checked them for size – we made sure they fitted on to our pages, and if they didn’t we cut them into any old shape that would fit. The idea is that the fabric pieces are randomly shaped, not looking like anything in particular – so using fabric scraps literally as you find them is great – no need for any further cutting!

4. We glued one piece of fabric to each page ie we took a sheet of card and glued fabric on one side. The other side of the card was left blank.

5. Once the glue was dry out came the pens and M turned each piece of fabric into something eg added arms and legs to make it a person, or wings to make it into a bug. This was inspired by our playing of The Shape Game.


6. I asked M to describe the pictures she had created and I typed up her accounts, printed them off and stuck them on the blank sides of the card, making sure the appropriate description was opposite the relevant picture. I had wanted to use Font Capture to create a font of M’s handwriting, but this part of the plan fell by the wayside, so I just used a regular font already on the computer.

Where she gets her ideas from I just don't know!

7. The pages of the book, now full with images and text, were bound using 2 of the rings you can find on very cheap keyrings – it’s important to use the cheap versions as the wire only overlaps a short way, making it much easier to thread the wire through the holes punched in the paper.


Tip: You could use ribbon or cord instead to bind your book, or even just a regular ringbinder, depending on the size of your pages.

8. We sat down with some milk and biscuits and had a good read and enjoyed running our fingers over the different materials πŸ™‚


Not only was this fun to make and read, it has also enabled me to take part in Sew, Mama Sew’s Scrap Buster Contest so we’re all winners!


Tickle the Duck!: *** (3 stars)

Whilst playing with all the lovely fabric scraps we’ve been listening to Tickle Me by The Heptones and With a giggle and a hug and a tickle and a kiss by Barry Louis Polisar
Alongside Tickle the Duck!, we’ve been enjoying another Ethan Long book – Stop Kissing Me! – where our old friend grumpy duck can’t showering a reluctant poodle with affection πŸ™‚


This also seems a good post to mention The Roald Dahl Funny Prize, which was “founded to honour those books that simply make us laugh”. Here are this year’s shortlists:

The funniest book for children aged six and under

  • The Great Dog Bottom Swap by Peter Bently, illus. Mei Matsuoka
  • Octopus Socktopus by Nick Sharratt
  • Elephant Joe is a Spaceman! by David Wojtowycz
  • Crocodiles Are the Best Animals of All! by Sean Taylor, illus. Hannah Shaw
  • Mr Pusskins Best in Show by Sam Lloyd
  • The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, illus. Bruce Ingman

  • The funniest book for children aged seven to fourteen

  • The Galloping Ghost by Hilda Offen
  • Eating Things on Sticks by Anne Fine, illus. Kate Aldous
  • Grubtown Tales: Stinking Rich and Just Plain Stinky by Philip Ardagh, illus. Jim Paillot
  • The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, illus. Quentin Blake
  • Purple Class and the Half-Eaten Sweater by Sean Taylor, illus. Helen Bate
  • Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan

  • The only one of these we’ve read is The Pencil (Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman) and it’s definitely a good read, and will make you smile. The winner will be announced on November 10, so I hope to get a few more of these books out from the library before then!

    What books and activities really make you and your kids laugh? I’d love to hear about the last time you really roared with laughter!

    13 Responses

    1. TheMadHouse

      What a fantastic thing to do with the children. It is just a sham that MaxiMad doesnt yet have the drawing skills your little ones has yet (boys get to this at a later stage), but I am bookmarking this for another time.

      I am also going to add that book to our long, long, long list from the library. We love books that are interactive, but can not remember the last time we had a great LOL book. MaxiMads currently fav book is the Alians in Underpants save the world.

    2. kellyi


      I love your fabric book, I’ve spoken to my dd and we have decided to make one for my 15 month old as a Christmas present. It’s just genius!

      You left a comment about subscribing to my blog. I’ve added the “followers” gadget, so I think you should be able to do it through that.

      Nice to meet you πŸ˜‰


    3. Melissa

      I love that you’ve tied together two things I love…books and fabric! What a great way to encourage creativity in those little ones. Thanks for the book recommendation!

    4. Ali

      Hello, Just found you comment on BMB. Left a review on stumble for you ;o) Loved your review of ‘Tickle the Duck’ so much am going to get the book for my little one.

    5. Kristine

      What a fantastic idea. The process and the product are just adorable. l love that your kids are already authors and it’s also a great way to turn their amazing art and spoken language into a keepsake. I’m eager to try this out with my oldest. Good luck with the Sew Mama Sew comp.

    6. Ashley

      What a wonderful keepsake book to make. My little boy just loves “touchy feely” books at the moment so will definitely look out for Tickle the Duck, looks great.

    7. Natalie

      I am visiting from StArt and admiring your project greatly. Your daughter has amazing artistic skills and a sense of humor. I’ll have to see if our library has Tickle the Duck, it sounds like a great book to read.

    8. sandhya

      Hey, this is an activity tailor-made for us, if you’ll excuse the pun! We had sometime ago aquired a bunch of scraps from the tailor, and were wondering what activity to use them for.
      Of your list of books, we have recently bought “The Boy in the Dress”. For two reasons: we love Quentin Blake, and A is at a stage when anything that makes a boy looks silly is cool, and we thought the book would be a fun read. So we shall proceed to read it ASAP.

    9. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Sandhya, I look forward to reading a review from you about The boy in the dress πŸ™‚ Yes, Amelia Bedelia is fun isn’t she, although the only one I’ve read with M didn’t quite work as there were too many linguistic puns – I need to try it again when she’s a bit older perhaps. Of to your blog now!

    10. Nan

      I could not stop laughing at your daughter’s caption A baby with the swine flu and a bottle of medicine.” What a crack up she must be!

      Great work. Thanks for the ideas!

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