Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

      I have just finished reading The Story About Ping, and I’ve decided that I hate it.     

     I read this book often as a child. Every lunch hour I went into the Monto school library to the obscure shelf where I’d hidden it, and reread it. I couldn’t stay away from it. I found it unsatisfying and troublesome. Unlike Ferdinand the Bull, who is content, then miserable, and then content again, Ping has no happy ending.
     The crux is this: Ping is a young duckling who lives on a boat in the Yangtze River. Each day the ducks are let off the boat to forage, and the last one back on board in the evening gets smacked on the tail with a cane. One day, knowing he’ll be last, Ping runs away. Or, in his case, paddles. After a series of traumatic adventures involving villainously-drawn Chinese people, Ping spots his boat again and hurries home, even though he knows he will get caned for being last. He does, and, supposedly, lives happily ever after.
     So there it is. Ping allows his fear to drive him back to an abusive home where he knows he will get beaten. Ping loves the person who beats him. The message is clear: Hey, kid, I might smack you around, but this is a picnic compared to the world out there. And Ping falls for it. He becomes the most degraded of all things, a happy slave.
     Ping settled, and he left me unsettled. The Story About Ping gave me a lot to ponder when I was seven, possibly a lot more than the author intended. I knew what the message was supposed to be: Discipline is good for you, but I didn’t feel it. Ping deserved better.
     I feel as strongly now as I did then about one thing: If I ever get a duck I won’t smack it.   

Buy the Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese here at Amazon.


  1. I just found your blog and had to comment on this post. I absolutely agree!!! I, too, loved this book when I was little and was so excited to purchase it for my own children. I was so utterly mortified when I reread the story. I had the same reaction to The Giving Tree. There's a wonderful book called, Should We Burn Babar? and it delves into this very issue. Books that we, as children, have wonderful reactions to that turn out to be very disturbing stories with terrible morals. It really makes you wonder what kinds of effects, if any, they have on child development.

  2. Thanks MacDougal Street Baby!

    The problem with Ping is I'm still conflicted. I read it, I get what I think is the message, and I wonder what the hell they were actually trying to say! I will always love Ping, because he is so cute. (I didn't realise how very Yellow Peril the Chinese looked until later!) But the story will always disturb me...

    I think it has stayed in my memory simply because it was the first book I had complex feelings about, so that has to be a good thing on some level, I suppose!



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