If you take a walk in Boston’s Public Garden, you may be greeted by a larger-than-life duck family out for a stroll: Mrs. Mallard, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. These bronze sculptures capture the frolicking illustrations of one of America’s most-beloved children’s books—Make Way for Ducklings.
Prize-winning author/illustrator Robert McCloskey grew up before there were such things as television, computers, and the Internet, but he packed a lot of fun and creativity into those years. He tried to invent all sorts of helpful things, sometimes with disastrous results such as when he worked up a cotton candy machine using molasses and a vacuum cleaner. He was also musical, but it was his artistic talent that landed him a scholarship at Vesper George Art School in Boston. If it weren’t for that scholarship, he said, he probably would never have moved away from his small town.
Indeed, his first picture book about a harmonica-playing boy named Lentil
took a page from his own early years. By the time he settled down for his next book--the story of duck parents trying to find the safest place to raise their brood--Robert and his wife were living in a New York apartment, but he needed ducks to serve as his models. An ornithologist friend told him could get living, quacking ducklings at a market in Greenwich Village. Soon he had ducklings swimming, splashing, and waddling around their apartment, and he was well on his way to creating wonderful sketches.
Fast Facts on Robert McCloskey:
September 15, 1914, in Hamilton, Ohio
Peggy Durand in 1940. She was the daughter of children’s author Ruth Sawyer
, his co-creator for Journey Cake, Ho!
Robert and Peggy had two daughters.
In 2000, he was honored by the Library of Congress as a “Living Legend.”
Died: June 30, 2003, on Deer Island, Maine after a long illness
Learn More about Robert McCloskey in the library and online:
The author tells how his childhood in Ohio inspired his later work and gives more details on how Make Way for Ducklings and his other books came to be.
This short interview was recorded in 1986. You may listen to it online or read the transcript.
Listen to a short NPR program on McCloskey, including a snippet from Make Way for Ducklings, and read “Highlights of a Life.”
Every so often, a thief or prankster makes off with one of the sculptures based on McCloskey’s most famous book, disappointing the local kids until it’s found or recreated. This time, “Pack” made it home safely.
His obituary from the Associated Press gives some high points in his career.