Classic Books for Kids: The Story About Ping

classic books for kids

We love classic books for kids like The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack. Our friend Melissa Gaynor from Sweet on Books explains why this book is a timeless family favorite:

What You Need to Know:
• In this classic book, written more than 75 years ago, a brave little duck learns a life lesson.
• Once a week, for 17 years, The Story About Ping was read aloud on the popular TV show, Captain Kangaroo .
• The story takes place on the Yangtze River.
• This book is often used in classroom lesson plans, and many study guides can be found online.
• There are a few references to spanking and to the duck being cooked and eaten for dinner.

This simple story describes life for a family of ducks living on a boat on the Yangtze River. Each day, they explore and then return to the boat in the evening. The last duck back receives a spank from the “Master” of the boat. One day, when Ping realizes he’ll be last, he makes an important decision. He decides to hide in order to avoid punishment. Ping’s choice leaves him alone on the river. As he attempts to navigate the world on his own, he finds that it is much different without the comfort of his family. Birds swoop menacingly and Ping comes close to becoming dinner for a boy and his family!

The suspense builds as readers wonder if Ping will survive on his own and if he’ll ever be reunited with his family. Dating back to the 1930’s, this story does show its age a bit. The humans look stereotypically Asian and there are several mentions of the ducks getting a spank on the back. I don’t think, however, that this treasured classic should be dismissed. The story remains poignant and even the controversial details can be starting points for discussion. For example, you can look at a map of China and talk about how the culture there has changed over the years, and about how it differs from where you live. Ping’s adventure will also encourage readers to think about the importance of family and the consequences of their actions. A wonderful book to read aloud, listeners will enjoy the repetition of key words and phrases and the pleasing rhythm of the story.

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