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Children's Nonfiction Alternative Family

Finding Family

The Duckling Raised by Loons

by (author) Laura Purdie Salas

illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis

Lerner Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Alternative Family, Zoology, Birds
Recommended Age
5 to 10
Recommended Grade
k to 4
Recommended Reading age
7 to 8
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Discover the true story of an orphaned mallard duckling being raised by a pair of loons.

On a lake in northern Wisconsin in 2019, loon researchers were surprised to discover a mother and father loon caring for a mallard duckling. Normally loons and mallards live very different lives and do not get along. Follow along as the duckling grows and displays a mix of both loon behaviors and mallard behaviors. Intriguing verse and striking illustrations combine in this heartwarming tale of unexpected animal cooperation.

About the authors

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 130 books for kids, including If You Were the Moon, Water Can Be . . ., and BookSpeak! Poems about Books. Poetry and rhyming nonfiction books are her favorite things to write. Laura loves to do author visits, writing workshops, and teacher inservices. Read more about Laura and her work at

Laura Purdie Salas' profile page

Alexandria Neonakis grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her huge family. She now lives in California with her husband and their two cats. In addition to illustrating children’s books, she works as a character- concept artist for video games. Her recent children’s books include Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk and This Is MY Room by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. She loves hiking in the gorgeous Southern California wilderness, gardening, playing games, and reading good books. Learn more about her online at

Alexandria Neonakis' profile page


  • Winner, Junior Library Guild Selection

Editorial Reviews

"An orphaned duckling finds the perfect parents.
Salas spins a spare, credible backstory for a 2019 discovery by researchers of a pair of nesting loons in Wisconsin and their surprising baby—a mallard duckling. Their own young perhaps eaten by predators, the loons focus on a lone duck hatchling nearby and, over the course of the summer, provide the necessities: food and protection. Neonakis' straightforward, clean-lined illustrations offer a clear look at loons and the duckling: their distinguishing coloring and body shapes. The differences in the expected behavior of ducklings versus loon chicks are emphasized in the simple text and put readers in the role of observers. Loon chicks 'take food from their parents,' while mallards don't, and mallards don't dive for their food, 'but Duckling does.' While young loons typically hide upon seeing strange animals (loons are territorial, backmatter explains), Duckling makes a racket in one of the amusingly incongruous moments. Loon babies ride on the backs of either parent while young, and the growing Duckling, its down turning to more substantial feathers, riding on a loon's back is sweetly funny. Backmatter expands the comparison of loon and mallard characteristics and behaviors. Salas offers a philosophical note about the inconclusive ending—loons and ducks migrate as the seasons turn, and it's not known what happened next—but leaves the thought that both the duckling and loon parents created a family together. (This book was reviewed digitally.)
Engaging natural science for the very young."—Kirkus Reviews


Other titles by Laura Purdie Salas

Other titles by Alexandria Neonakis