Author Lily continues the story of Jasper the duck in her moving picture book Jasper is a Hero.
In her last book Jasper Saves the Day, Lily told the story of Jasper, a young duck who loses his foot but manages to overcome his disability and serve an important role in his flock. Jasper is a Hero begins a year later, with Jasper firmly established as a well-regarded adult among the flock. There’s no mention of Jasper’s mother, who had figured prominently in his injury recovery; Jasper is now fully independent.
The flock leader asks Jasper to teach three ducks from other flocks—Mo, Oscar, and Peppy—to spot hunters the way Jasper does. Soon, Mo, Oscar, and Peppy are helping Jasper train even more ducks from other duck communities. Illustrator Joel Ray Pellerin does an especially nice job with these segments, bringing different types of ducks, with easily distinguishable markings and coloring, into the story.
While much of Jasper’s teaching is grounded in building endurance and practicalities such as sighting the glint of steel from a hunter’s rifle, Jasper’s explanation of his “inner voice” veers toward the metaphysical: “When you are listening to your inner voice, it’s really a higher Being that lives way up in the sky that is talking to you.”
Years pass, and Jasper grows older. One day, distracted by moonlight on the water, Jasper forgets to listen to his inner voice and is shot by a hunter. Upon seeing that he has killed the legendary “One-Footed Hero,” the sad hunter resolves to never hunt again.
Jasper is a Hero is a brave, notable book for the way it provides an air of scope and purpose to Jasper’s life. There’s a sense of continuity and legacy, and even peace, as Jasper meets his fate. Though Jasper’s death might be upsetting to very young readers, most elementary school children will appreciate the book’s honesty and depth.