Ping was first published in 1933.
We had a copy at my preschool which sat on the shelf for years. I had never read it and didn't plan on reading it. It looked old-fashioned, out-of-date and not likely to appeal to a modern audience. I judged a book by it's cover!
However, in 1996 I took some leave to go on a trip to China. I wanted to read some books with a Chinese theme to my classes in preparation for my departure. Ping seemed a logical choice.
I read it and thought, "okay, not great, but it will do."
Then I read it to my class.
The first few pages, the kids twitched and mumbled about the old pictures...but then...Ping misses his boat ..and the mood changes, just like that every single time.
Suddenly I would have 20 rapt, quiet faces gazing in my direction hanging on every word.
Every kid in the class responded to Ping's desire not to be the last duck on board, because the last duck on board always gets a 'spank on the back'.
It didn't matter what kind of parenting style the child had experienced at home, the fear of being spanked was something that they understood regardless.
They were on Ping's side. They wanted him to escape and they wanted him to be safe.
But very quickly the second fear kicks.
The fear of being lost and never seeing your family again!
I can't tell you how many times I have reread this story since 1996, but I could probably tell it in my sleep!
The China trip was very successful.
I had requests from the children for pictures of Ping (above).
And they were amazed to see that families still lived on boats that looked just like the ones in the book (right).
Although the illustrations look dated, the story is timeless thanks to it's universal childhood themes.
No modern story could talk about being spanked, as it wouldn't be PC.
However the lesson learnt is that there is a consequence for behaviour (dawdle and board the boat last and you will get a spank on the back).
And that it is often better to just 'suck it up' and take the consequences as getting a spank on the back for being last on board is much better than being lost from your family, captured and almost eaten for dinner!!