My son Andrew was only 2-1/2 years old when he first heard the story of Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. He promptly invented pretend friends named Duck, Hen and Cat and then delighted my husband and I with stories of their escapades. Duck, Hen and Cat were very real. The following summer we were on vacation in Victoria, Canada, when my husband carelessly folded up what looked like an empty stroller. Oops! Cat was sitting in the stroller. We think all of Victoria heard the terrified screams of a toddler who thought one of his best friends had just been squished. Fortunately for all of us, Cat survived.
In time, Andrew’s stories grew more and more detailed. When Andrew learned that our favorite handyman, Stan, owned a farm in Pleasant Hill, Duck bought a farm right down the road. Duck would accompany us into hardware stores and buy up all the tools and load them into his truck. When we asked where Duck got so much money, we learned that he owns a national chain of paint stores. Duck really loves paint.
Andrew added more characters. Duck, Hen and Cat’s new friends included Mouse, Bear and Dragon. Andrew added animals to his farm. Duck got cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, horses and goldfish. After a visit to a local alpaca farm, Duck bought alpacas. Each variety of animal has special talents for getting into trouble.
One day Andrew asked me to tell him a Duck, Hen and Cat story. I made up something silly and he giggled. So he kept asking. And I like his giggle. Whenever I tell a story, Andrew adds (or changes) details and shapes the story to his liking. To encourage Andrew when he was learning to read, I started writing out some of our stories, printing them with our computer and adding some pretty pathetic drawings.
In time, I asked illustrator Kim Sponaugle to draw Duck so the rest of the world could see what he really looked like. Andrew was thrilled. I sent her a photo of the 100-year-old barn at the alpaca farm (above) and it became the model for Duck’s barn. Duck and Friends: The Dinosaur Bones was the first Duck story I published and in tribute to Little Bear, I wrote the book for beginning readers. I have ideas for dozens more, but for now there are just two books. I’m currently looking for a traditional publishing house for Duck.
Andrew’s stories about Duck and his friends continue to this day, although as Andrew has gotten older his stories have changed. Now they often include details more suited to events in a famous galaxy far, far away… Since Andrew invented Duck, I’ve given him his own page where he can share whatever he wants to share. I know he’d love it if you visited him at Andrew’s Spot.
Photo courtesy of Aragon Alpacas.