Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Make Way for the Ducklings

On Monday evening, we walked on the golf course in our neighborhood. At the seventh hole, a mother duck and her ten newly born ducklings suddenly emerged. She was very surprised to see us. It was obvious that she was accustomed to the patterns of people coming and going. Golfers were usually gone by the time we arrived. She put her head down and watched us from the grass at the water's edge.

The ducklings were a circus. They had no idea of proper order. Straggling around her and making plentiful noises, they were a motley crew of fluff balls heading in every direction. Clearly, more training was needed.

I said to my husband, "Let's move off the path over to the grass on the fairway." We did, and Mother Duck relaxed as she saw behavior she recognized in humans. Hard as it was not to stare, I purposefully looked away.

A minute later, when I looked back, she was showing her brood how to eat bugs from the mud. The ducklings, distracted by all the sights around them, were chattering in happy excitement. This was a big event for them. Soon, I figured, they would be hungry enough to pay attention. For now, they were getting one of their first glances at the big, wonderful world into which they had been born.

Later that evening, as I was thinking of the ducklings and smiling, I remembered a book that was one of our favorites. Make Way for the Ducklings, was written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey in 1941 for children. It's warm, funny, and engaging. McCloskey deserved the Caldecott Medal he won in 1942 for his illustrations. I learned recently that it has become the Official Children's Book for Massachusetts. I can't think of a better choice.

Here's encouragement to go to the library one summer day. Find the book. Read it to yourself, or to your kids, if they are ten years old or younger. While you are at it, fill everyone's arms with books to try. Pick up a simple treat for the family on the way home. Declare " Book Day! " and enjoy your books together with some music playing softly in the background and your treats out on the table. We loved our Book Days. When we were struggling, the weather was unsavory, or we were bored and listless, a Book Day was our holiday of choice. We all piled on the couch with our borrowed treasures and ventured into other worlds, times, and places with them. We made many new discoveries and learned about things we would not have known otherwise. Often, these discoveries led to interesting school courses, hobbies, favorite authors, gifts, even trips and new friends.

My kids were allowed to earn school credits for the books they read in the summer. This encouraged them to keep reading and reminded me to integrate the things we learned casually into the rest of their year. When we came home from the library, I either saved the list that the library printed for us, or I wrote the books down in a notebook. If there were ideas from the books they read which they wanted to try, we either made time for this in the summer months or planned projects for the school year.

Please note: I did not receive any compensation or free merchandise in exchange for my written review or my opinion about this book.

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