RIC grad, pet duck, teach values of love and acceptance

Laura Backman holds Lemon. (Photo: Bristol Workshops)
Lemon the duck is the topic of conversation at many area schools, nursing homes, and even the Rhode Island State House. Why? Because Lemon is a neurologically challenged Pekin Duck who was born in 2006 at Portsmouth’s Hathaway School in Laura Backman’s M‘02 kindergarten class. Lemon cannot walk or stand on her own due to balance and coordination problems. Nevertheless, Lemon is a spunky, happy duck that loves people, swimming and to be kissed on her bill. With the help of some adaptive equipment she is able to scoot around and stand.

Backman, a reading specialist at Melville Elementary School in Portsmouth, has written a children’s book titled “Lemon the Duck” based on her real-life experience with Lemon. It’s growing in popularity and has parents and children raving about the pet.

Lemon is an inspiration to many and has been featured in The Providence Journal, National Public Radio and Parade magazine. She regularly visits disabled children and the elderly, and recently went to the State House for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness events. Backman and Lemon also do pet assisted therapy at Melville school and local nursing homes.

“She is truly an inspiration. I wanted people to see that all life is precious, and we all deserve to have the highest quality of life possible,” Backman said of Lemon, whom she adopted when the duck was born.

In the story “Lemon the Duck,” a teacher and her class conduct an egg-hatching experiment, and eventually welcome four little ducklings. The students soon realize the one they named Lemon cannot stand and walk like the others. Through their love and attempt to ensure Lemon’s quality of life, the students learn that her disability doesn’t make her any less special.

“I wanted children to know that they truly can make a difference in someone’s life. They can be powerful. I think Lemon's message goes beyond empathy and provides valuable, teachable moments for kids,” said Backman.

She dedicates Lemon’s story to her father who passed away from Multiple Sclerosis. Profits from the book are donated to the MS Society and the Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary, a non-profit organization committed to finding homes for abandoned waterfowl.

Backman is currently working on another book about Lemon and plans to submit it to Lobster Press this summer.

For more on Lemon the duck, go to lemontheduck.com.