The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks


Title: The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks Author: Katherine Patterson Illustrator: Leo and Diane Dillon
Publisher: New York; Lodestar Books

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Beginner Number of pages: 32 Pub. Date: 1990


There are two mated Mandarin ducks, the male with glorious plumage and a female in subtle colors. One day a lord saw the beautiful male duck and stole him to make him his pet against the advice of the lord’s chief steward. The duck could not live in captivity and got sick and lost its beauty. A young servant girl of the house saw this and freed the duck. Unfortunately the steward was blamed and demoted to the lowest of tasks. The young girl told the steward what she had done and wanted to confess but he would not let her. The two fell in love, and when the lord found out they were sentenced to death. On the day of their sentence, two officials of the emperor came saying that capital punishment had been banned and the two prisoners were to come with them. After a long journey, they arrived at a cottage where the couple were fed and looked after before going to bed. The next day when they went to find their savior they only found two Mandarin Ducks waddling away. The couple lived there for the rest of their lives.


This book has many characteristics of a traditional tale. The story is of simple structure, has the predictable theme of good winning in the end, and has a happy ending. This story is a folktale and tells of everyday people, who over come a problem. The Mandarin Duck the young girl saves ends up returning the favor showing that it is good to do things for others. Also the over come their challenge with the help of the Mandarin Ducks who transform into humans to save their lives.


Although this story took place in Japan, it could be easily adapted to take place in many other countries as well. Ducks, lords and servants are common to many areas. I enjoyed the idea that the ducks paid their debt to the humans by saving their lives. Also the love story woven into the book is cute and helps to create a lesson about taking on challenges together. The illustrators for this book were very talented and the style that they chose matched the setting of the story well.  I also like how the outfits of the “emperor’s workers” matched the feathers of the birds, I think that this would be a fun way to help students predict about the workers being the ducks in disguise.


            Before/After: Students will complete a KWL chart about Japanese culture.

K- know

W- what to know


Japan is ruled by a emperor.

People wear Kimonos.

Samurai are warriors.

What is the hierarchy of power in Japan?

What else do the Japanese wear?

Japan is referred to as the land of the rising sun.

Samurai can be demoted to house servants.

Japanese wear straw sandals and some of the men wear pants.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s