Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Happy 75th Anniversary!

The Caldecott-winning  Make Way for Ducklings, published in 1941,  was written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey.

McCloskey grew up loving music and using his hands to make things.  He planned on being an inventor when he grew up until he became an illustrator for his high school newspaper and fell in love with art.  He won an art scholarship and completed work at an art school in Boston.  On his daily walk through a park to the school he enjoyed seeing the ducks there.  Years later he was hired to paint huge murals in Boston.  He noticed the ducks in Boston’s Public Garden near where he worked.  Their interactions with traffic around the park not only entertained him but showed up in his children’s book.

His illustrations of the ducklings in the book are so lifelike because McCloskey was determined to bring reality to the page.  He purchased some mallard ducklings from a city market and kept them in his studio.  For several weeks he watched and sketched and cleaned up after them.  He let them swim in a bathtub while he sketched them.  He even resorted to giving them a little red wine to slow them down so he could sketch their waddles.

McCloskey captured the everyday sights of Boston’s scenery.  I love his charcoal drawings of city life that add interest to his backgrounds.  It’s good to help your young readers/listeners learn to appreciate his beautiful sepia-toned illustrations since they contrast with modern full-color picture books.

This mallard family, created by Nancy Shön, has called the Boston's Public Garden home since it's installation in 1987.

Click here for a nice audio recording of Make Way for Ducklings.

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