I love many of the books Robert McCloskey wrote/illustrated so it’s really exciting that we get to read his books again for our “Storytime with Author” time. There’s something special about his books… his illustrations are stunning and as true-to-life as they can be. The stories behind his stories are even more interesting too! I’ll share more below.
Robert McCloskey’s books are a classic. For a man whose initial plans were only to make a living as an artist, McCloskey certainly surprised himself when he decided to try his hand at writing children’s book because his art career was a ‘bust’. His books today are some of the best loved children’s classics. His most enduring book is perhaps the famous Make Way For Ducklings, a Caldecott winner – an absolute favourite of mine. So here’s more on why our family love McCloskey and our thoughts on this book (in this post) and a few others we love (next post.)
Make Way for Ducklings
Story : Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are looking for a new home to start a family. After flying around, they finally land at the Boston Public Garden… they like it but their first encounters in the park aren’t the most pleasant nor safe. They decide to look for another ideal place to raise young ducklings before coming back. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard end up settling on an island in the Charles River where Mrs Mallard lays her eggs. Their eight ducklings hatch (very cute names – get your child to say them!) and Mr Mallard decides it’s time to go back to the Boston Public Garden. He tells his family to meet him there in a week. (Ok, though I love this book, not too happy with Daddy leaving Mummy to do all the work. Apparently in real life, male ducks are a danger to their own offspring so it’s better to get them separated!) During this time, Mrs. Mallard teaches her ducklings how to swim and gets them ready for the real world. A week has passed… they are ready to migrate. Nope, not flying, they’re gonna walk to Boston Public Garden! Imagine a row of 9 ducks all marching in a row, turning the corner and crossing the streets. Hilarious! But it was a scene McCloskey witnessed himself that inspired him to write this book! I shan’t reveal all but what follows next is the most charming and amusing story as the police gets roped in to help “escort” Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings.
The illustrations are simply beautiful, all done in pencil and there is no need for colour to add to beauty. They are richly detailed and vivid. Here’s an interesting nugget : To illustrate the detailed movements of his characters, McCloskey bought ducks to observe them in his home. He watched them for weeks, sketching them as they waddled around the house. He put them in a bathtub to see how they swam. But because these ducks were too fast and wouldn’t hold still, he apparently fed them wine to slow them down! (I cannot confirm if this is true. Haha) I shared this with Sprinter and he was totally amused. He has always enjoyed this story but now he’ll never forget the length and effort McCloskey put in to write and illustrate this story.
I love the setting of this book : Boston Public Garden. I have not lived in Boston but I visited the place a few times when my siblings were studying there. For those who have lived in Boston, I’m sure this book will hold even more special meaning. McCloskey’s illustrations are as true-to-life as can be. You read the book and you feel transported to the place. My dream is to take my kids to Boston one day and have fun revisiting the story and visiting the places in the book!