Make Way for Ducklings was written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, published by The Viking Press.
Here is one of the most-beloved children's books of all time. It won the Caldecott Award in 1942 and for decades was a favorite on Captain Kangaroo, the long-running TV program for children. Although McCloskey's output was extremely small, amounting to only eight books, their enduring popularity proves the adage that quality counts more than quantity. His work is esteemed so highly that in 2000, the Library of Congress named him a Living Legend.
What makes his books so great? To find the answer, we need look no further than at his greatest book, the one named above. The story alone is one of the best ever conceived for little children. It tells about a mama and papa duck who are looking for a suitable place to rear their ducklings. By chance they alight in Boston, of all places, where they successfully set up house and hatch their brood. But the task of bringing up eight little fuzz balls in an urban environment soon produces perilous moments and narrow escapes. All is well, however, because the kindly Irish cops of Boston come to their rescue.
The story would never have become immortal without help from the illustrations, the strongest feature of any McCloskey work. He was a trained artist, skilled in creating a seamless blend of realism and cartoonlike exaggeration. On suggestive but accurate backgrounds he places amusing people and cute animals. The ducks in all their repertoire of postures are like dolls the child would like to hold.
In some of his other books, especially One Morning in Maine, his drawings reach an even higher level, at times reminiscent of Norman Rockwell. The insubstantial story lines in this book and Blueberries for Sal are mainly pretexts for McCloskey's charming drawings of Maine's coastal islands in all their special beauty, cold and forlorn. The same landscape appears in Time of Wonder and Burt Dow, Deep Water-man. These four titles, together with Lentil, connect best with small children.
McCloskey's immensely popular books for older boys are Homer Price and Centerburg Tales, both featuring the same Homer, one of the most boyish boys ever brought to fictional life. Henry is shrewd, dumb, obsessed, able to outwit any adult without hardly a moment's thought, a nuisance to all the prosaic and a scourge to all the wicked, an inventive genius with a corny sense of humor. In other words, he is every boy next door. The drawings in these books are also outstanding, as well as being hugely nostalgic. They show in accurate detail the life of a small-town American now largely gone. They spring from McCloskey's own upbringing in Hamilton, Ohio.
Make Way for Ducklings (1941)
Homer Price (1943)
Blueberries for Sal (1948)
Centerburg Tales (1951)
One Morning in Maine (1952)
Journey Cake, Ho! (1954). McCloskey was the illustrator and Ruth Sawyer, his mother-in-law, was the author.
Time of Wonder (1957)
Burt Dow, Deep Water-man (1963)
Nearly all these books are still in print or available in new editions.
Ages 7-12 (Homer Price stories), 2-5 (Make Way for Ducklings), 3-7 (remaining stories).
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.