Sometimes Reality Trumps Fiction

March 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

Lucky DucklingsFor the past year, my five year old has been obsessed with sorting out fiction from fact. “But did that really happen?” is a common question when we are reading stories, delivered with a furrowed brow and a skeptical tone (as if we as parents are deliberately trying to dupe him with our choice of fictitious books). “Swans can’t really talk and that’s how I know that this story did not really happen,” he announced with confidence at the dinner table one night, after fervently recounting the chapter his class had read that afternoon from The Trumpet of the Swan.

More and more, it would seem, JP has decided that stories are synonymous with make-believe. So, in an effort to challenge his thinking (and because it’s fun to blow his mind), I have been on the hunt for seemingly far-fetched stories that are actually based on real events. Lucky for us—and for our daughter who is obsessed with ducks right now—Eva Moore and Nancy Carpenter’s new Lucky Ducklings (Ages 2.5-6) is just such a story—and an actual rescue story at that.

Those who grew up with Robert McCloskey’s timeless classic Make Way for Ducklings (my husband’s all-time favorite book as a kid) will find many parallels in this story of a mother duck who obliviously leads her ducklings our of the serenity of a quiet pond and into the perils of urban living (both stories, for example, feature a kind city official who stops traffic so that the ducks can safely cross the street).

The real difference is that, as the title page inform us, Lucky Ducklings is based on the actual events of Montauk, New York (the tip of Long Island), in June 2000, when three fire fighters and a man with a tow truck rescued five ducklings that had fallen into a storm drain while trying to follow their mother across. “Emily, that story really happened, like for real,” JP interrupts, as he walks by me reading this book to his little sister for the 10th time in an afternoon. At two and a half, Emily is less concerned with historical accuracy and more concerned with “the babies!”—who are adorably named (again, a nod to McCloskey’s rhyming names for his ducklings) Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin, “and last of all Little Joe.”

And then there’s the matter of the storm drains. It doesn’t matter how enticing our destination (say, the ice cream shop), my children have to stop if they walk by a storm drain; it is simply not possible to bypass the predictable string of commentary that follows. “It’s so dark down there!” “I see water!” “That water goes to the ocean!” “You can’t ever get something back that falls down there, right Mommy?” So the fact that this book features a storm drain; the fact that you can only faintly make out the shapes of the ducklings bobbing in the dark water after slipping through the grates; and the fact that a fire fighter climbs down into the drain to rescue the ducklings…well, these things blow my children’s minds.

For me, there’s something wonderfully optimistic about this old-fashioned-feeling tale of a modern-day town that rallies around its web-footed neighbors. I am content to continue reading it several times a day and to keep reminding my own flock (who will one day bravely strut their stuff without me) that amazing things do happen. For real.

Oops!

Thankfully, the town of Montauk later replaced all their storm drain covers with ones that have smaller holes.

Other Favorite Rescue Stories Based on Actual Events:
10 Little Rubber Ducks, by Eric Carle (Ages 1-3)
Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic, by Monica Carnesi (Ages 2.5-6 yrs)
Heroes of the Surf, by Elisa Carbone & Nancy Carpenter (Ages 4-8)
The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story, by Jeanette Winter (Ages 4-8)

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