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The Story about Ping Paperback – August 28, 2000
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About the Author
Marjorie Flack first got the idea for her classic story from her first book, written by her friend Helen Lomen. The Peking ducks in Angus and the Ducks so intrigued her that she began researching them. The Story About Ping was the result. She went on to write and illustrate many more children's stories, including Boats on the River, illustrated by Jay Hyde Barnum, which was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Ms. Flack died in 1958.
Kurt Wiese illustrated almost three hundred books for children. Books he both wrote and illustrated include You Can Write Chinese and Fish in the Air. Both stories were named Caldecott Honor Books, and reflect his experiences as a traveler in China where he lived for six years. Mr. Wiese died in 1974.
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I don't know what parents today would make of its plot, given that there is a "smack" given to the last duck up the ramp at the end of each day. Ping hates the smack, hates that it hurts and hates that it marks him as "last" every day. One day he doesn't go home because he's last and doesn't want the smack. On his own, he encounters adventure, grave danger, makes a friend, and finds his way home again, realizing that smack isn't the worst thing that could happen to a duckling who strays beyond the boundaries.
I love the artwork in this book. It has a (not unexpected) far eastern feel, which really enhances the sense of wonder and adventure. It is neither patronizing nor a caricature of Asian culture, which probably betrays the period in which is was written (As an adult, I would have expected the latter based on its publication date, and the former if it was written today).
The real winner here is the narrative. It treats a young reader with honesty and respect. Ping's actions may make sense in the short term, but have long term ramifications as the story unfolds. It shows a child real life consequences and that admitting your faults can be the best way to go. The story may lack the themes of heroism and non-conformity that dominate today's literature for children, but that is what makes Ping so special. Highly recommended!