Michael Leunig manages to be very funny, thought provoking, consoling, surprising and questioning, sometimes all at the same time in Ducks for Dark Times. This is the twentieth collection of wonderful cartoons which were originally produced for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Readers will enjoy Leunig’s unique perspective on the highs and lows of everyday life, how we place too much reliance on technology, and how we need to slow down and take time to enjoy life.
Of course, we also have the ubiquitous duck which Leunig has described as a direction-finding duck, to help lead us out of the gloom of dark times. This notion of a duck as a ‘pathfinder’ has been shown to be a common psychological model in many cultures. We find just such a duck in the tale of Hansel and Gretel that helps them get home when the children escape from the witch’s cottage by carrying them across a big river. We can see this in Leunig’s cartoon of a sad-looking woman who seeks help from several ducks saying:
My dear friends, I may have lost some vital parts of my
mental health and I want you to help me find them.
While we may have different ideas on what’s causing the dark times, I think many readers would agree we are living through them. Whether one’s dark times are brought on by world and/or local politics, the rampant charge of new technologies or something more personal, this book delivers a glorious blast of sunshine into these dark places. It will make you laugh, make you think, and remind you that as we humans have created the dark times, we equally have the power to lift the gloom and look on the world with a less jaundiced eye.
The cartoons in Ducks for Dark Times do far more than shine a light into the gloom; they also serve to remind us that everything in the garden doesn’t always have to be rosy, and that we can find beauty and joy all around us even if life is messy and uncertain.
The cartoons also brilliantly poke fun at the current trend to think that technology can solve every problem. Modern Stupid compares the effort needed to be stupid in olden days, when everything needed to be done by hand, to today when we can be stupid by the click of a button thanks to modern technology. Perhaps my favourite cartoon is Pants on Fire app where you can get alerts when your pants burst into flame and updates on your smart phone on the progress of the fire! It’s certainly no sillier than some apps I’ve seen.
I highly recommend Ducks for Dark Times.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 10
Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: October 2017