Saturday, 14 January 2012

The second duck book in my

life has, of course, to be "Make Way for Ducklings" by Robert McCloskey.
Now the reasons for this are not because it won the Caldecott Medal in 1942 or that the book has been continuously in print since then, or because there is a row of metal ducklings in Boston Public Garden (and another in Russia by the same artist, a gift to Raisa Gorbachev).
I doubt very much the book would even be considered for publication now. The story line barely hangs together. If you doubt that do go and re-read the book. There will be a copy somewhere on the internet.
I think I read the story on my first day at school - that day when I was put in a corner with a pile of books and told to read. I was worried, very worried about those ducks crossing the road. For me that was what the story was about, getting across the road safely - with a little help from the police force.
Later I read the story to other children. I read to children I taught. I read it to my nephews. I read it to the Whirlwind. There is a battered, ex-library copy in this house.
Then, on my return from university interstate, I had to re-new my passport as I was using it as photographic ID. I had to get the new photographs certified by a justice of the peace. I went into the office of my local member of parliament and asked his secretary to do the job for me.
She was just about to sign them when she flung down the pen and said,
"Excuse me."
Then she rushed out of the office onto the busy main road. The traffic was halted. A family of ducks was escorted across the road and then everything went back to normal. The secretary came back in looking slightly flushed but relieved.
"I nearly forgot. It was my job to look out for them today. Max is at the dentist." Max is a very slow man who frequents the local shopping area. He helps out by returning trolleys, putting out bins and doing other small things. People know him and know him as harmless. It was also Max's self imposed task to see the family of ducks across the road each afternoon. They always arrived about the same time. He would stop the traffic and then escort the ducks across the road. They seemed to know that this was how to cross the road. If he ever lost a duckling I never heard about it.
I had to go in and out of the office on numerous occasions to get forms signed. If it was "duck time" Max would appear in his flourescent yellow vest" and escort the ducks across the road.
The office has moved now. The ducks have moved on too. Their habitat was altered and the local council arranged a new home for them further up the creek. There is no traffic there and apparently they settled in.
It is better for the ducks but there are a lot of us who miss our own "Make Way for Ducklings".


Anonymous said...

I remember holding my breath every afternoon but, somehow they never moved until he turned up to escort them across the road. I used to wonder how they got across the road the other way - until I discovered that they could only go one way through the drain under the road! Ros

Frances said...

We had a Max here too, Cat.
I recall seeing the "checkout chicks" with him: concerned, respectful, kind, checking that he was buying what he needed or wanted, had put his change into his purse and his purse away carefully. Sending him on his way with affection and caution.

Max was the duckling that they were all seeing safely on his way.