Sunday, October 23, 2016
Farmer Schultzs ducks by Colin Thiele illustrated by Mary Milton
I have been researching books to share with the teachers at my school as we explore our new Geography Syllabus. I mentioned this in the last post. Farmer Schultz's ducks appeared on one of the lists I have been exploring. I have not read this book for a long time. Now I discover this is a perfect book in so many ways. What a pity it is long out of print.
The language of this book is inspirational as you would expect from a writer a poet like Colin Thiele :
"In springtime there was celery on the breath of the wind and falling blossom like confetti on the slopes, as if the hills were having a wedding."
"There were ducks with necks of opal and wings of amethyst"
"There were ducks with the sheen of emerald, of sapphire and turquoise and jasper, like the glint of Aladdin's treasure."
"And ducklings as tiny as tennis balls and as soft as the bobbles of golden wattle when it bloomed on the hills."
"They held their heads high and addled with dignity, although they had to jostle their elbows when they went through the gate."
For the Geography syllabus this story covers issues of urban development, the impact of people on an environment, town planning, problem solving and the local area of the Onkaparinga River in South Australia.
Farmer Schultz has a very productive farm in South Australia across the road from the river. He has cows, geese, fruit trees, crops and over fifty ducks.
"Every morning after breakfast Farmer Schultz opened the backyard gate so that the ducks could go down to the river."
Sometimes a car comes by as they cross the road but the drivers always stop. Sadly though, as time goes by the city begins to sprawl and the traffic becomes heavier. Rushing cars don't always stop and one dreadful day a drake is run over. The family talk through all the possible solutions. First they try a sign "Ducks Crossing" as suggested by the youngest family member Anna but this does not work because motorists ignore the sign. Then Anna suggests a bridge. This works well (perhaps too well as now cars stop to watch the duck parade). Sadly though, once again there is a disaster. A semi trailer plows into the bridge and this time many more ducks are killed. There is a solution to this problem and once again it is little Anna who saves the day.
"Why don't you have a pipe,' she said, 'so the ducks can cross under the road?"
We have thousands of picture books in our school library. Some people might say we have too many! I am sure there are some I could cull but this cannot be based on the age of the book. Farmer Schulz's ducks was first published in 1986 and I fondly remember when it was short listed for the CBCA award. I was working in a tiny rural school and the students and I painted a huge mural of these very special ducks. If we had culled Farmer Schultz's ducks In my current school our students would not get an opportunity to experience this wonderful book.