Monday, September 21, 2015

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack, 2000

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Ping was an adventurous duck who lived on a beautiful wise-eyed boat on the Yangtze River. He liked his life on the riverboat just and liked his large family and his kind master. He didn't like to be the last in line to board the boat at night, for that unlucky duck got a loud spank. So what did Ping do when it seemed that he would be the last on line? What else but set out on his own to explore the fascinating world of life on the Yangtze River.
The Story about Ping is one of the best-loved and enduring children's books, both for its spirited and irrepressible hero and for its beautiful evocation of a distant land and way of life. Every child can sympathize with a dawdling duck who wants to avoid a spanking, and share his excitement and wonder as he sails down the river.

(32 pages)

I know, I know. Since when I do even read - let alone review - baby books? Well, I'll tell you when: since my AP English teacher assigned a book review of The Story About Ping. I've been struggling to find time to blog between my four AP classes and the (very time-consuming) process of applying to colleges. Thus, when I saw that I had to write a book review for school I jumped at the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Anyway, on to the review. I originally read The Story About Ping when I was little. Going into my re-read, all I could remember was that it involved a baby duckling who gets lost when his family's boat leaves without him one morning. It turns out that I remembered correctly; what I'd forgotten was why Ping is left behind. You ready for this? The last duck on board their boat gets a spanking from the man who owns the boat. Ping sees that he'll be last, because he didn't hear the call to come back to the boat, and decides that he'll just sleep in the water that night instead so he doesn't get spanked.

Yeah. For real. I think it's supposed to be a lesson about the dangers of avoiding your rightful punishment, but I'm sitting here going "wait, why is the guy spanking his ducks? And why does Ping 'deserve' a spanking for making an honest mistake? And wouldn't this sort of arbitrary punishment make all of the ducks reluctant to come home at night, not just Ping?"

I'm just not so keen on the man's duck-keeping skills in general. For example, we see in multiple pictures that the ducks board the boat single-file with him standing right there (which is why he is able to spank the last duck on the boat). Does he just sit there, picking his nose and waiting to hit a duck, instead of actually counting the stream of birds passing in front of him? Surely a more responsible duck-keeper would keep track of his ducks, and count them before driving off to a new place altogether. Sure, Ping shouldn't have chosen not to board, but the man should have noticed that someone wasn't there. I mean, come on!

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. This is a kid's book, right? I can definitely see kids falling in love with The Story About Ping for the same reason they become obsessed with any story: they're kids, and they latch on to just about any random thing that catches their fancy. I personally don't fancy this story very much, both because of believability issues and because it seems a little creepy in parts - especially when Ping sees the birds who have choke collars around their necks that won't let them swallow the fish they catch.

But then, I'm really not one to talk: my childhood obsession was Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.

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