Did any of you see this heart-stopping YouTube video? I first saw it on a news broadcast and only made it through the entire thing because the anchor said at the outset: “Don’t worry—it all ends well.”
I loved seeing this—how the little ducklings would scurry back to the guidance of their mother after their little group was scattered by the wind of passing traffic. How she would wait on them to regroup before continuing her perilous path.
It made me think back to one of my favorite childhood books: Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey (1942 Caldecott Award.) For those of you who don’t know this book, it is about a family of ducks crossing a city street (with the help of the friendly traffic policeman) to get to the lake at the Boston Public Gardens.
Another of my favorites was about Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Marianne (by Virginia Burton, 1939.) I also loved The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward (1953 Caldecott Award.) I shared all these with my son.
As I grew older, my reading interests became more focused. I was a horse lover from the get-go. C. W. Anderson’s series on Billy and his pony Blaze were some of my early favorites, not the least because of Anderson’s unbelievably beautiful and realistic illustrations. Billy and Blaze had many, many adventures together, including forest fires and mountain lions. I so identified with Billy because from age 6 I had my own horses on whom I rode hours at a time on adventures in the miles and miles of wooded trails that surrounded our house.
You may be more familiar with the movie based on these, but Walter Farley wrote a series of books that I devoured. The Black Stallion was the first, but there were many, many after: The Black Stallion Returns, the Son of the Black Stallion, the Black Stallion Races, and on and on. He also added a few books called “The Island Stallion,” about Flame, a beautiful red chestnut who lived—where else?—on an island!
And I cannot leave out Marguerite Henry. She wrote a whole bunch of books on horses, the most famous of which may be the series on Misty of Chincoteague about the Assateague Island wild ponies and the festival each year where the herd must swim to Chincoteague for the auction of some of the herd to keep it thinned. My personal favorite of Henry’s books was King of the Wind (1949 Newberry Award.)
There were many other books that cultivated my imagination as I was growing up –too many to catalog here! It is safe to say that I read all the time—now a lifelong habit. Going back over these in my mind after watching the duckling video gave me a great deal of pleasure.
I can only hope that this video-game age of kids will continue to read, as I did, so that they may have this kind of memory to enjoy in their waning years!
Let me hear about some of your favorite childhood books! --C