He was a duck?

When I was five, friends and family members would often brace themselves for a lovable, yet piercingly resounding greeting. My Aunt Kath tells it best when she recounts numerous tales of her hyper-active and boisterous niece running up to her, placing her nose centimeters from her own and screaming at decibels that could knock the wind out of you,


So, as fun and entertaining as this little quirk was, my parents simply had to tend to the blatant hearing problem in daughter number four.

Like many children, I hit the operating table for the tubes that would put an end to this endearing trait forever. As far as I know, I do not greet people by yelling in their faces, but it’s hard to say. Do close talkers know they are close talkers? Hmmm.

Leading up to this miraculous life-altering surgery, were many visits to the ENT. Although Dr. King has long since passed, I will never forget him or his office.

There was a book that my mother read to me at every visit. It was about a man who tries to get an ant out of his kitchen with a hammer and destroys his whole house in the process. I remember the last page had a picture of the ant crawling out from the rubble unharmed.

I’ve thought of this book umpteen times throughout my life. The concept, even at five, stuck with me as being an important lesson.

Every project I’ve poured hours into, in an effort to craft each minuscule detail into perfection until I hammer out any recollection of what the project actually was in the first place, has come with a warning bell to the tune if this old story.

“Stop now, before you ruin the whole thing!”

So naturally, I have been searching for this book for about 20 years. No exaggeration. The problem was that neither my mother or I remembered the name of the book.

I googled possible names:

“Crack the Ant”

“Mr. Fix it and the Ant”

“The Ant lives”

“Let the Ant Be”

“Put the hammer down”


My Mother even went into Dr. king’s office for the sole purpose of asking the staff if they still had it.

Just FYI, and I know this is shocking news, but most medical offices replace their waiting room reading material more often than every 20 years.

Each time I’ve gone to a children’s library or book store, it’s become a habit to scan the bindings across the shelves just to see if something jumps out.


Yesterday, I was at the library to use their coveted internet to pay bills. (no one can figure out how to fix the damage done to the cable/internet lines on our block during ‘Sandy’) On a whim I walked over to the librarian to have the conversation I’ve had a dozen times with others like her.

“I know this is a long shot, but I’ve been looking for years for a book. If I describe it, would you maybe know what it is?”

“You can give it a shot!”

“Its about a man who destroys his house trying to get rid of an ant.”

After 30 seconds of typing into a database, she said

Henry’s Awful Mistake? By Richard Quackenbush? It’s about a duck.”

“A duck? I don’t remember a duck. Can I see the cover online?”

“Oh my gosh! I think that’s it! The man is a duck?! Do you have the book here?”

“We sure do!”

She walked me back to the aisle and I immediately recognized the first illustration after the title page.

Astounded, I thanked her profusely and told her 17 times that she was my hero and had ended a 20 year search. I checked out the book and read it to the kids in the car on the way home. Zachary has asked for it at least six times since then.

This can only mean one thing. My son is a perfectionist with a freshly implanted warning bell.

Remind me in 30 years to ask him if he remembers the guy being a duck?

Yours Truly,
Relieved that I can now move on with my life…and so can my mother.


11 responses to “He was a duck?

  1. As I sit here lovingly reading this tribute to my involvement in your youth, I vividly recall bracing my eardrums (and secretly long to relive those days again) as that precious little girl runs toward me, arms open wide. I love reading about your life today. I’m so glad you found the book. (I’m very tempted to go to the library and check it out myself.) I love you and miss you here in Boston. Come home… All My Love, Aunt Kath

  2. Going to buy that book online today Em! Xoxo katie

  3. Totally getting the book.

  4. Sounds like a good book. I’ve reserved my copy at the library. But, I am still unclear about one part…did she know the name of the book by your description or type the description into the database? And, I am sure if you had remembered the author’s name you would have remembered that the character was a duck. It is very fitting that Mr. Quackenbush wrote stories in which the main character was a duck, after all.

    • I know! And, she actually put that lame description I gave her into a search and it came up? Is that crazy? Zachary brought it to show and tell today (not the sit-n-spin) 😉 and the teacher loved it!

  5. Very sweet story. Danni had a book I use to read to her OVER AND OVER, I could only remember one verse and looked for years online for it, finally found and old copy, I wrapped it up for one of her christmas gifts knowing she would be so excited to see it … I waiting with anticipation, she reached for the gift, ripped off the paper and gave me a strange look ,,, yes Em, she had no recollection of it!!! OH WELL!!!

  6. What a great ending! I love those books from childhood that made such a lasting impression.

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