One day in early spring Luye and Dad went up to the park. When they were walking by the lake Dad said, "Look, Luye, there are some ducks. They're the first ones of the season."
Luye saw several ducks floating on the water. Some were a dowdy brown, and others had brilliant blue-green head feathers and bright yellow beaks.
They were hungry. As Luye watched, one ducked its head down into the water looking for food. Its tail stuck straight up in the air. The tail quivered as the duck's beak stabbed in the mud at the bottom of the pond.
When the duck could hold its breath no longer, its head burst through the water into the air again. Water flew everywhere as the duck shook itself.
Luye said, "Let's feed the ducks!"
"We don't have any bread with us," said Dad.
"Let's pretend," said Luye. She went over to the wire netting fence that was built around the lake. She put her fingers through the wire holes and wiggled them at the ducks. Dad sat down on the grass behind her.
Luye bent down and picked up a handful of gravel. Pretending it was food, she threw it through the wire. The ducks scattered apart, then swam over for a closer look.
One of the ducks was the oldest, wisest duck of them all. He was the Prince of Ducks. He had seen many seasons and amassed great knowledge about the nature of things.
But he had one fault – he was very bad tempered. He would sometimes get angry at the smallest things. When he saw Luye throwing gravel for food to the ducks, he set up a great squawking, and paddled furiously across the pond.
"Quack, quack, quack!" he cried angrily. "We're hungry, little girl. How dare you try and feed us gravel!"
"I'm sorry, Mr Duck," said Luye. "I was just pretending to feed you. I don't have any real food to give you."
"You'll be sorry, all right," quacked the Prince of Ducks. He was angry because he hadn't had anything to eat for a while. His hunger made him irritable. "I'll turn you into a duck. Then you'll see what it's like!"
Next thing Luye knew, she was up to her waist in water in the middle of the lake. She opened her mouth to call out to Dad for help. Then she saw she had a big yellow beak. All that came out was, "Quack, quack."
Luye looked down and saw she was covered with duck feathers. It was just as well, because duck feathers have a special oil on them that repels water. That way she was still warm and dry.
Her legs had changed, too. They were short and stumpy and had webs of skin between the toes.
"That rotten old Prince," Luye thought. "He said he'd turn me into a duck, and he has, too!"
She kicked her legs as she sometimes did when she couldn't get her own way. To her amazement, she shot forward over the surface of the lake. The webs on her feet helped her to go fast when she paddled them in the water.
She liked whizzing across the water. She sailed grandly over to the side of the pond. She turned around and skipped back across again. Luye laughed and splashed her wings in the water.
The Prince of Ducks looked down his long beak at her. "Huh," he sniffed. "Wait till you're hungry. You won't be laughing then."
Luye realized she was very hungry. She knew the ducks dived into the water for food, so she tried it too. Underneath the water it was murky and brown. When she got to the bottom of the pond, it was covered with mud. She could see little grubs wriggling in the mud, and tadpoles flitting past.
"Ugh," she thought. She didn't want to eat grubs and tadpoles. She rose out of the water in a rush. She felt a little sick.
She saw the Prince of Ducks smirking at her. She wasn't mad at him any more. She knew how hungry he was. And she still had to get back to her Dad. Only the Prince of Ducks could help her to do that.
She put on her cutest smile. It was difficult because of her beak, but she managed it somehow.
"Can I go back to Dad?" she asked him.
"No," snorted the duck.
Luye remembered why he was angry. "If I show you where there's lots of food, will you let me go?" she said.
"I might," said the Prince of Ducks.
Luye let a fat oily tear trickle down her beak.
"All right," said the Prince hastily. "Where is the food?"
"Tell me first how I can get back across the fence," insisted Luye.
"All you have to do," said the duck, "is paddle as fast as you can across the water. Then flap your wings, and you'll fly right over the fence."
"There's grubs and tadpoles and everything," said Luye. "Right here below."
Then she was off. She pointed her beak at the fence, paddled like mad and flapped her wings furiously.
Luye skimmed the surface of the water, then rose into the sky. The fence rushed up to meet her. She gave a little extra skip to get over the top.
She floated over the grass and flopped down next to Dad. He looked around.
"What are you daydreaming about?" he asked.
Luye opened her mouth and gave a little squeak, just like a baby duck. Then she said, "Next time we come here, I want to bring some real bread to feed to the ducks."
Soft cover, 10 stories, 2 poems, 100 pages, 37 color & 2 black and white illustrations,
10¾" x 7¼", $18.50", plus shipping and handling.