Local legend has it that in the not too distant past, a white duck escaped from his enclosure at a home in Wakefield, wandered over to the sidewalk in front of the old Benny’s and walked into the road. Thankfully, the tale doesn’t end there. So the story goes, a kind soul stopped traffic and shoo-ed the duck across the street to the pond at Old Mountain Fields where he lived for a while with a group of mallard ducks.
And this is where local author Marjorie Vorhaben’s new children’s chapter book “The Tale of the White Duck” picks up.
Vorhaben, who lives in Wakefield, says she used to see the white duck swimming around with the mallards during her walks through Old Mountain Fields. Although the duck seemed to be on the outskirts for a while, eventually Vorhaben observed that the white duck was accepted into the group.
“I started writing about this duck, whom I call White Duck, after I joined the Neighborhood Guild Creative Writers Group a few years ago,” she said, adding that each week they would get a prompt to write about. “One week the prompt was simply ‘saying no,’ so I wrote about the white duck and how his way of saying no was to say ‘I most certainly do not.’”
When Vorhaben started writing about the duck, she says she never intended to write a book. She just wanted to write about the duck as she saw him and about what she imagined for him.
“Many parts of the story are based in truth, which I think makes it an even better book,” she said. “In talking to other people about the book, it turns out that I wasn’t the only person who was taken with this white duck - there were many others who stopped to watch this duck interact with the mallards.”
In the chapter book, White Duck finds himself lost, meets the mallards and becomes an adopted member of their family.
“The theme of being different but being accepted, welcomed and cared about runs through the book,” Vorhaben said. “White Duck forms a close relationship with a female mallard named Small Girl mallard.”
During her research for the book, she learned a white domesticated duck and a mallard could procreate together as all ducks are descendants of mallards. Vorhaben said she also learned that the reason white ducks can’t fly is that when they were first bred on farms many years ago, they were bred to be heavy and eventually became too heavy and could no longer fly. Because they can’t fly, they cannot get away from danger as other ducks can.
“So White Duck’s big secret is that he can’t fly but this book is really about White Duck’s life with Small Girl mallard,” Vorhaben said. “The two encounter a sneaky fox who is after their eggs at one point in the story. You’ll have to read it to find out the rest.”
It took four years to get it exactly how she wanted it but the Wakefield resident, who’s spent her entire career working with children in various capacities, said it’s pretty surreal to see “The Tale of the White Duck” available for sale on Amazon. The chapter book, which is good for 6 to 9-year-olds to read on their own or for any age as a read-aloud, is also available for sale at Wakefield Books and at the Collective in Peace Dale.
“It put it down and picked it back up numerous times,” she said. “I wanted to get the illustrations from Cranston artist Jason Mayoh just right. I think it’s perfect now and I think it will kind of remind readers of a fable. It has a kind of old-fashioned feeling to it that I love.”
One of the illustrations, which features White Duck crossing the street in front of a still-in-business Benny’s might offer a bit of nostalgia to locals, Vorhaben said.
“I think locals will love this book,” she said. “I think the story of White Duck will be a local legend retold for years to come.”