stories help us talk about life

by rebecca on March 24, 2010

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      Reading with my children is a place I find my church. It’s where my skin becomes soft and my soul is transported. The Island of Yummy became established as an institution when my babies were young. With one in each arm, and a book open between us, I could always find that fountain of Love. Today I take a look at the book entitled Bear and Mrs. Duck by Elizabeth Winthrop.

      Of all the books I’ve read in my life, I am certain that I read Bear and Mrs. Duck the greatest number of times. I didn’t just know the text. I had the answers to my daughters questions memorized.

       She would ask, “Why is Mrs. Duck flying up high?” and with closed eyes I could answer that Mrs. Duck was getting a book for Bear. I knew, without looking, what my daughter was pointing to.

       She asked why Mrs. Duck got into the tub. She asked about Bear’s ball. I had all the answers because they were always the same questions; my daughter simply needed to hear them again.

       This book fundamentally helped my daughter to grow up.

       Mrs. Duck is a babysitter and, at first, Bear is sad that his person, Nora, has left him to go to the store. Eventually, however, Bear softens because of Mrs. Duck’s gentle persistence to engage him. They play and Bear learns he can have fun with someone other than Nora.

       Why did my daughter choose this story to hear twice a day for more than a year? Perhaps it is the gentle cadence of the writing. Maybe she was learning about separation from me. I don’t really know. I simply know that not many books could be tolerated with that kind of repetition. This is one.

      Mrs. Duck is very different than Nora. Bear learns he can have affection for both of them. Maybe my little girl was learning about embracing a larger world by wrapping her arms around this story.

      For what ever reason, I think this might be the book that taught my daughter that books can be a place to learn about yourself. I never commented about Bear or Mrs. Duck. I merely answered, as straightforwardly as I could, the questions my pigtail wearing 3-year old darling asked. I believed in the power of story.

      It must have worked because not long ago that same daughter, who is now 16 years old, came into the kitchen crying. Her latest novel had ended and the story still had a grip on her. We talked about the story for over 2 hours. We wound our way through the bumps of growing up and falling in love. We talked about life all because of a story.

      It’s what we’ve been doing since she was itty bitty wondering why Mrs. Duck was willing to get into the bathtub. I think it all boils down to love.

      Sadly, this book is out of print. But most good libraries will have a copy and one can find used copies all over the internet. Meanwhile you can fall in love with Elizabeth Winthrop and her soothing voice. She continues to write many books for children and adults alike.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Elizabeth Winthrop March 27, 2010 at 8:12 am

Rebecca, thank you so much for this lovely paean to my book. I went on to write two more books about BEAR and Mrs. Duck as they were characters very close to my own heart too. But what a lovely moment it is when a reader like yourself takes the time to tell a writer how much a book meant to her and to her daughter. You made my day!

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