This is the first in a series of columns focused on children’s books.
The much beloved picture book “Make Way for Ducklings” written and illustrated by artist and author Robert McCloskey, is still popular even though it was published in 1941.
One of the stories that librarians and parents have shared with their young listeners over the years is that the artist wanted so much to get his drawings of ducks correct that he actually bought some ducks to live with him in his apartment in New York City while he was working on this book.
That story has now been turned into its own book, “Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards, the Making of Make Way for Ducklings,” written by Emma Bland Smith with illustrations by Becca Stadtlander and published by Calkins Creek, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers.
Children will enjoy the way McCloskey studied the ducks, making drawing after drawing until he knew his drawings were not just good, but top notch. He said, “You can’t draw ducks unless you live with them.”
In 1985 sculptor Nancy Schön was commissioned to make statues of the ducks from “Make Way for Ducklings.” Those iconic sculptures of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack) can be found waddling along in the Boston Public Garden. It would be fun after reading this book to take a trip into Boston and visit the ducks. Children and adults have been known to sit on them and often the ducks are dressed in various costumes, celebrating holidays and other special occasions, including this year’s Duckling Day on May 14 (https://friendsofthepublicgarden.org/2022/12/01/ducklingday2023).
Boston audiences can also enjoy the new show “Make Way for Ducklings, the Musical” which is playing at Boston University’s Wheelock Family Theatre on Saturdays and Sundays through March 12 (https://www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org/performances/2022-season/make-way-for-ducklings/).
Doris Smith worked in the Bedford Public Schools from 1967-2001 as the elementary school librarian covering, at that time, all four schools: Center, Davis, Lane, and Page. She was later the full-time librarian at the Lane School. She also worked for about five years as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She continues to pursue her interest in art. Today, she is the arts and culture writer for The Bedford Citizen.