Editor's note: An adventurous duck discovers that being lost is much worse than being last aboard his riverboat on the Yangtze River.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful young duck named Ping. Ping lived with his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins.
Their home was a boat with two wise eyes on the Yangtze river.
Each morning as the sun rose from the east, Ping and his mother and his father and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and his forty-two cousins all marched, one-by-one, down a little bridge to the shore of the Yangtze river.
All day they would hunt for snails and little fishes and other pleasant things to eat. But in the evening as the sun set in the west, "La-la-la-la-lei!" would call the Master of the boat.
Quickly Ping and all his many family would come scurrying, quickly they would march, one by one, up over the little bridge and on to the wise-eyed boat which was their home on the Yangtze river.
Ping was always careful, very very careful not to be last, because the last duck to cross over the bridge always got a spank on the back.
But one afternoon as the shadows grew long, Ping did not hear the call because at that moment Ping was wrong side up trying to catch a little fish.
By the time Ping was right side up his mother and his father and his aunts were already marching, one by one, up over the bridge. By the time Ping neared the shore, his uncles and his cousins were marching over, and by the time Ping reached the shore the last of his forty-two cousins had crossed the bridge!
Ping knew he would be the last, the very last duck if he crossed the bridge. Ping did not want to be spanked. So he hid.
Ping hid behind the grasses, and as the dark came and the pale moon shone in the sky Ping watched the wise-eyed boat slowly sail away down the Yangtze river.
All night long Ping slept near the grasses on the bank of the river with his head tucked under his wing, and when the sun rose up from the east Ping found he was all alone on the Yangtze river.
There was no father or mother, no sisters or brothers, no aunts or uncles, and no forty-two cousins to go fishing with Ping, so Ping started out to find them, swimming down the yellow waters of the Yangtze river.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, boats came. Big boats and little boats, fishing boats and beggars' boats, house boats and raft boats, and all these boats had eyes to see with, but nowhere could Ping see the wise-eyed boat which was his home.
Then Ping heard this call, "La-la-la-la-lei!"
Ping looked and there near the bend of the river was the wise-eyed boat which was Ping's home, and Ping saw his mother and his father and his aunts, all marching, one by one, up over the little bridge.
Swiftly Ping turned and swam, paddling toward the shore. Now Ping could see his uncles marching, one by one.
Paddle, paddle, Ping hurried toward the shore. Ping saw his cousins marching, one by one.
Paddle, paddle, Ping neared the shore, but --
As Ping reached the shore the last of Ping's forty-two cousins marched over the bridge and Ping knew that he was LATE again!
But up marched Ping, up over the little bridge and SPANK came the spank on Ping's back!
Then at last Ping was back with his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins. Home again on the wise-eyed boat on the Yangtze river.
First published in the United States under the title THE STORY ABOUT PING by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese. Copyright Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese, 1933. Copyright Renewed Hilma L. Barnum and Kurt Wiese, 1961. Published by arrangement with Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Pub Date: 6/03/98