And now for something completely different: “Have you heard the story?/It’s been whispered far and wide;/There’s a Duck in Flanders; /It’s so big you can walk inside!” No? Well, you probably do know something about that 20’ x 15’ x 30’ white architectural icon on Route 24 in Flanders.
If your East End roots or travels go back a few decades, you may even remember when the novelty ferrocement building nested elsewhere, before Suffolk County bought it a few years ago and returned it to its original duck farm site. Now you can read all about it yourself or cuddle up with a young’un and enjoy what Rose Nigro has hatched with charm and humor. She calls the 38-page real-life tale A Duck’s Tail: The Story of a Big Duck and the Small Town That Loves Her (Reeves Bay Art Works Press). And you can feast on some of the wittiest, most whimsical illustrations around. Tom H. John, an award-winning artist-designer, does them and they are superb—black ink with touches of orange, the pages sometimes bordered in blue. Delicious expressions, great humor.
Nigro, a longtime resident of Flanders, is active in all manner of community affairs and she is a plein air artist. The book is clearly a labor of love for her and for her editorial assistant and Big Duck docent Janice Jay Young. It was an inspired move to do the story in rhyme (a,b,c,b—ballad meter). In such a cynical age, it’s nice to know that, according to the book, “when people wanted something done, they made a plan and worked with their local government to bring it to fruition.” Big Duck came home. The book is sure to prompt a visit to the actual Big Duck. And it should.