Gertie: The Darling Duck of WWII

Gertie: The Darling Duck of WWII
Gertie: The Darling Duck of WWII by Shari Swanson. Illustrated by Renée Graef

By Shari Swanson
Illustrated by Renée Graef
Sleeping Bear Press, 2023
32 pages

Ages 4-8

In April, 1945, a duck laid eggs on a high piling in the Milwaukee River, near a drawbridge in the heart of the city’s downtown. Named Gertie by a local reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, her unusual choice of a nesting location captivated the city as her story spread. Crowds regularly gathered on the bridge above to watch her. Would the eggs hatch? Would her ducklings be safe so high above the river? The bridge tenders were determined to protect Gertie’s future ducklings, and it was a good thing they were: When a storm bore down on the small family after most of the eggs had hatched, the men rowed repeatedly into the choppy river to save the ducklings that fell in. Gertie and her babies were reunited and moved to the window of Gimbel’s department store for three days before being released in a local park lagoon. This winsome story features illustrations capturing the historical setting and the charm of Gertie and her family, while the moments of drama, and the scope and scale of interest in Gertie –around Milwaukee and far beyond—at a time when “the world was weary of war” also make for a fascinating tale. An excellent “More to the Story” essay, including photographs, tells more about Gertie’s fame and its global reach. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center