Exclusive! Get Your First Look at Henry Winkler's New Children's Book and Series

Meet Detective Duck and get the lowdown on the release date and how to order this new chapter book.

Fans of Henry Winkler's young adult books will have another reason to celebrate in 2023. The award-winning actor and his writing partner, Lin Oliver, are launching a new book and series.

Detective Duck, the funny and uplifting children’s book, centers on a very curious little duck named Willow Feathers. This smart little duck with big dreams lives in Dogwood Pond with her loving father who happens to be a beaver. Through her crime-solving adventures Willow and her eclectic band of animal pals discover the joy of taking care of one another and the planet.

“All the characters have their own traits, eccentricities and personalities. They are individually funny but are funnier together and care about each other,” says Oliver. “I love this story so much,” adds Winkler. “I loved working on it every day. It’s just adorable. And this is the only duck to have a beaver for a dad.”

Detective Duck is the 38th book from the bestselling authors who have been writing together since 2003. From Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, Detective Duck will be released Oct, 17, 2023. The chapter book is available for pre-order now.

Detective Duck features illustrations by famed New York Times bestselling creator Dan Santat. “Our illustrator is the bee’s knees,” says Winkler. “The artwork is beguiling. It's not just, oh, isn't that adorable? Dan has created a world where you not only feel the characters, you want to hug them.”

“Working with Lin and Henry has been a long time coming," Santat said. "In previous years, we had attempted to work together on two separate projects but scheduling or publisher differences didn’t make it possible. With Detective Duck, I paid homage to old pulp novels of the golden age and combined it with a nature aesthetic and I hope the results were well worth the wait.”

Get your exclusive first look at the cover for Detective Duck:

Now available for pre-order, Detective Duck debuts <a href="https://parade.com/living/october-holidays-observances/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:October;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">October</a> 17, 2023.
Now available for pre-order, Detective Duck debuts October 17, 2023.

With a second Detective Duck book already written Winkler and Oliver continue to be amazed and humbled by the success of their books. When asked if he could talk to those teachers who didn’t believe in him or his intelligence he knows exactly what he would say.

“We have traveled all over the country and our favorite thing is to go into schools, talk to children and make them laugh,” he shares. “I think, you have no idea what you can accomplish because YOU are powerful. And how you learn has nothing to do with how brilliant you are.”

In Parade's first interview about Detective Duck, Winker and Lin talk with Parade to discuss their collaboration and inspiration for this new series.

What inspired Detective Duck? 

Lin Oliver: When we were working on our previous series one of the characters was reading a book. And in thinking about a fun name for that book Detective Duck just fell out. It was dormant for a year, just as a line in a book. And then Henry said, “I really love that Detective Duck character.” And we started talking about it.

Henry Winker: Lin really fought for the idea that this little duck was environmentally concerned. All of our books have underpinnings of different emotional things. And Lin was adamant that this duck took care of her friends and where they lived.

Lin Oliver: We wanted to provide a wonderful and entertaining story. All our books are about friends and groups of friends. The key theme in our work is how to be a friend, how to be part of a group and part of society. And also, how to listen to your friends and understand their differences. Henry fishes avidly, loves the waterways and woods and goes fly fishing a great deal. I am happiest next to water, whether they are oceans, ponds or streams. So we put this duck in her own beautiful pond that is under threat as are so many ponds in America. So then we had a series.

And what about the detective part? 

Lin Oliver: We loved the idea that Willow is a detective, particularly since we're writing for younger kids. Detective stories really help them sort out clues, think about the story and be a little bit ahead of the story. We thought about each of the characters and what could make them unusual, distinct and full of humor because mostly we write comedy. And Detective Duck hatched.

Henry Winkler: Willow dreams about being a detective and her best friend, Sal the salamander says, “you can do anything you want.” Also, I love that Sal reads bits of comics that are left behind by humans at the campsite. And when they get too soggy, he uses them as a washcloth. You don't waste anything.

Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver have collaborated together since 2003
Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver have collaborated together since 2003

Why was that important for Willow to have a beaver, Beaver McBeaver for her father?

Lin Oliver: We started with the idea that this is Willow's chosen family. This is a family that is constructed, which a lot of kids are dealing with. Willow, a very smart duck, is Beaver's adopted child who Beaver loves. There’s the idea that Willow would raised by a mammal who might have higher order thinking skills to help Willow solve crimes. Willow is an unusual duck because she has the intelligence of a beaver who is very industrious, organized and gets things done.

Willow is so curious. Why was that so important for her to have that key quality? 

Henry Winkler: We are both grandparents. I have two boys and a girl. And Lin has three boys and also unbelievable grandchildren. What you see from the moment I see them is curiosity. My granddaughter will say, “This is the greatest thing I ever saw. I’ve never seen anything like it.” And it’s a ball of dust. It is amazing.

Lin Oliver: Curiosity is the basis of education and intelligence. Kids have it and society very successfully stifles it as they get older. When you're around someone who is the reading age of this book which is elementary age, they’re asking questions and coming up with hypotheses that are most often wrong, which is good. You try and fail and try and fail and try and fail and eventually you come up with something that is your own. That’s the model that we base this on.

Also, why was it so important for the environment to play a big role in the story? 

Lin Oliver: I worry about little kids and what they must be thinking all the time. There's a lot of dire news around. You don't want to ignore it. That's why we're dealing with issues about water pollution and human encroachment on nature. But we wanted to end with the idea that if you work together and do the right thing, you make a local difference.

This book is about ripples. You can fix something in your own pond and that can ripple out, which is a great message for kids. In general, kids don't have a lot of power to change things. But if they can change something in their house, backyard, or in their daily use, and then model that for other people. It ripples out. We're encouraging them to feel empowered by doing something very local, which is what Willow does.

At the end of the day is being entertaining the most important quality of your books? 

Henry Winkler: First, we want the story to be entertainment. Not an assignment. And then if we bring along a thought or two, so be it. Some of our book, Alien Superstar, talks about body shaming, being controlled, not being able to listen to your instincts. There are lots of wonderful underpinnings that kids identify with. Some of the greatest letters we get is, “how did you know me so well?”

Dan Santat
Dan Santat

What is it like for you to get reactions from people who have read your books? 

Henry Winkler: I cannot tell you how many times that happens. I went to a hotel and the bellman came running out. He said, ”I have read every Hank book. They got me through school. I didn't know there were others like me.” Parents come up to us and start crying and say, “I can't even tell you what you did for my son or daughter.” And their child is now 25. It happens over and over again and is stunning.

Lin Oliver: We intend for our books to be fun reads. Not exactly easy reads, but, joyful reads. Combining joy with reading is a gift for kids. And it's a gift for parents. Parents say, “I walked down the hall after my son or daughter was in bed. And I heard them laughing and thought they must be playing a video game.” And they opened the door and the kids are reading one of our books in bed. And that kind of story is so meaningful. At its heart reading is sharing a great story and, and moving someone. So every time we get to do that and know it's happening out in the world, even if we're not there, it's a thrill. It’s what every person who writes for children dreams of. That their books are in the hands of somebody who is experiencing joy.