By Michele Landsberg
Updated June 26, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT

”There once was a duck who had the bad luck to live with a lazy old farmer.” So begins this witty and deeply satisfying picture book for every child who has ever wailed, ”It isn’t fair!”

While the slothful bully of a farmer lolls in bed eating chocolates, the good-hearted duck wearily cooks, cleans, tends the livestock, and hoes the garden. Finally, out of empathy for their duck friend’s plight, the cows, the sheep, and the hens rebel, taking over ”their” farm. Justice triumphs (in real life, too: Farmer Duck has won two of Britain’s top literary prizes for children’s books).

The subtly poetic narrative is ideal for reading to toddlers, and the watercolor pictures by Oxenbury are delectable; not since Beatrix Potter has an illustrator conveyed such humorous, tender expressiveness in animals. A+