Gertie, The Darling Duck of WWII

In 1945, the attention of the United States, along with the rest of the world, was focused on World War II. After more than five years of fighting, downcast, war-weary people were looking for signs of hope of a better future. One April morning, a duck searching for a nesting spot lands on a tall post sticking out of the Milwaukee River. Situated near a busy drawbridge and the noisy city of Milwaukee, this was an unlikely, precarious spot for a soon-to-be-mama duck to build her nest. But that is exactly where Gertie (named by a local reporter) decides to make her home and lay her eggs. Once local newspapers report the story, crowds begin visiting the bridge to watch Gertie and speculate how she will safely hatch her babies. Soon, news outlets around the world are carrying the hopeful tale of the plucky duck, raising spirits, and giving readers a shared sense of community.

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Interest Level Grade 1 - Grade 4
Reading Level Grade 2
Dewey 598.4/134
Lexile 930L
ATOS Reading Level
Guided Reading Level Q
Language English
Publisher Sleeping Bear Press
Available Formats Hardcover (9781534111714), PDF (9781668918074), Hosted ebook (9781668918494)
Copyright 2023
Number of Pages 40
Dimensions 9 x 11
Graphics Full-color illustrations

Booklist - Gertie, The Darling Duck of WWII

“Swanson’s writing is lively, and the duck family’s saga remains engaging, particularly within its historical context.”

Kirkus Reviews - Gertie, The Darling Duck of WWII

“Gertie’s heartwarming tale delights and distracts today as it did in 1945.”

Author: Shari Swanson

Shari Swanson is the author of Honey, The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln, winner of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award (2022), a Junior Library Guild selection, and a Best Book of the Year by Bank Street College of Education (2021 Edition). She lives in Southern California, nestled among mountains and canyons, with her husband, Todd, and their dog and cat, Honey and Marie. Shari has a BA in English Literature from UCLA, a JD in Law from USC, and Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Shari has been an appellate lawyer and a middle school language arts teacher. She loves the mountains, animals, and games of all sorts. Learn more about her at

Illustrator: Renée Graef

Renée Graef and her children spent many of her birthdays walking the 990-foot breakwater to reach the Port Washington Lighthouse. She has illustrated over 80 books for children including T is for Time; D is for Dala Horse: A Nordic Countries Alphabet; the “Kirsten” books in the American Girl Collection; and many of the My First Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Renée splits her time between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles, California. Learn more about her work at

Original artwork
Timeline of key events
Full-color illustrations