Make Way for Ducklings
New York: Scholastic, 1941
This is a book I bought for Baby Elijah’s library. It has very special memories for me. Neither his Mama nor his Daddy are old enough to remember a great man named Captain Kangaroo. He was a children’s TV show host when I was growing up. Elijah’s Nana (my sister, Bonny) and I watched him regularly. I remember the day he read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. I was fascinated with the ducklings that crossed the road in Boston. Imagine a line of little ducklings stopping traffic in a large city! I still remember the way the program panned across the pages. It made the book come alive almost as if they had animated it.
The city of Boston so loved this book that they have a bronze statue of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings in the Public Gardens. Maybe some day Elijah will get to visit the Boston Public Gardens and see the ducklings. Maybe he will get to ride in a swan boat and feed peanuts to the ducks that reside there as his parents read him this book.
This morning as I was trundling away on the treadmill at the gym, I heard a news report about another mother duck and her ducklings crossing a busy highway. This time it was in Arizona and the hero of this story was a highway patrol man. Do you think it was coincidence, kismet, or fate that I heard this story on the day I planned to blog about this book? Do you think this story will inspire another author or illustrator?
Another reason I selected this book for Elijah was it is a Caldecott Award winner. Do you know about the Caldecott Awards? This award was named for Randolph Caldecott, a 19th century English illustrator. It has been awarded every year since 1938 by the American Library Association for the children’s book with the best pictures. I think they knew what they were doing when they gave Make Way for Ducklings this award in 1942. My book as it appears above doesn’t have the Caldecott seal, but the book I bought for Baby Elijah does have it.
I love the clarity and detail of Robert McCloskey’s drawings. I think he was keen observer of life. According to articles I read for this posting, he got the idea for this book as he was walking through the Boston Public Gardens on his way to art school. It was several years later, when he was ready to write and illustrate this book.¹
It is said that he didn’t have a clue how to draw ducks and he wanted to be precise. He bought 12 ducklings and put them in his apartment’s bath tub. He followed them all around the apartment, but they were too fast. Some how, he had the idea to give them a little red wine and that slowed them down enough for Robert to sketch them. You can watch a wonderful profile of Robert McCloskey by Anita Silvey. ² She includes this tale in her profile.
He often said he didn’t know anything about children’s literature. ”I think in pictures,” he said. ”I fill in between pictures with words. My first book I wrote in order to have something to illustrate.”³ I am so glad he did!
Mr. McCloskey twice won the Caldecott Medal, the American Library Association’s annual award of distinction for children’s book illustration.
You can read more about this extraordinary author at these websites.