With our current bimonthly theme, we have more time to go over some of the books we have just recently bought and are gathering dust in our bookshelves. I have just recently bought this book while I was vacationing with family in the States and I was delighted to discover that the setting of the entire narrative is in Boston, with a special focus on the Public Garden which we managed to visit while we were doing a brief tour of the East Coast.
A Family of Two [Plus Eight]. The story begins with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in the air, looking for a suitable place for them to live and build a home. You know from the first page that they seem to be a sensible couple who would most likely be doting and loving parents. As their wings grew tired looking for just the right place (without dangerous foxes or sneaky turtles), the couple somehow found their way into the Boston Public Garden, whose nice pond with the little island appealed to Mrs. Mallard’s sensibilities. It took several moves before the fastidious (borderline-persnickety) Mrs. Mallard felt that they have found the right nesting place for their precious babies, somewhere near the Charles River.
I must admit that I have fallen in love with the gorgeous illustrations of McCloskey as Mr. and Mrs. Mallard search for the perfect ‘home’ for their growing family. The new parents’ struggles against moving vehicles, anxieties about bicycles with their wheels, worries about foxes and turtles – would resonate with any parent whose primary job is to worry about their children. There is so much genuine warmth in the way that the narrative is communicated in a very simple manner – so much truth and simplicity that it disarms even the most jaded reader. Then, of course, there is that pivotal moment when Mrs. Mallard needed to cross several blocks and busy streets to reunite with her husband who is waiting for her and their eight ducklings in their pond at the Boston Public Garden.
Robert McCloskey and his Ducklings. Even before I read this book, I have read Leonard Marcus’ interview with Robert McCloskey in two of his books: Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter and A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and their Paths to the Caldecott Medal. Thus, I know a little bit as to how the story was created, thanks to Leonard’s superb interviewing skills. As far as I can recall, McCloskey actually purchased several ducks which stayed in his apartment for several weeks for him to really study minutely each and every movement and aspect of the animals and to make his illustrations life-like in its aspect.
I also love how he managed to capture the vibe and feel of Boston, particularly its beautiful public garden. It was mentioned that there were several invitations for McCloskey to turn Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s story into a TV-series, but he declined, insisting that the narrative is meant to be a story in a book, and that he is happy with the way it is. Apparently, such is the popularity of this book that an actual sculpture was created by Nancy Schonn right smack in the Boston Public Garden.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see this sculpture as I didn’t know about this book while we were in Boston! In fact, a replica of this sculpture was installed in Moscow as a gift from the United States. How awesome is that. This book has truly moved lives and has even traveled to another continent altogether. What a wonderful legacy.
Teacher Resources. As an award-winning book and a Caldecott Medalist at that, I have found several resources that can prove to be useful for teachers who wish to make use of this book in their classroom. This Unit Study created by Evelyn Saenz is quite comprehensive as it covers how the book can be interwoven with language arts, math, science, social studies, and a few other subjects. This is a downloadable pdf link created by Live Oak Media with reading, cross-curricular, as well as possible internet activities. Here is another downloadable pdf link created by the State Library of Ohio which includes a list of discussion questions and possible extension activities that can be done in the classroom.
The Beauty that is the Boston Public Garden and McCloskey’s Artwork. I was not able to really explore the Boston Public Garden as much as my husband and daughter as I had to attend a conference while in the city. While I was cooped up listening to fellow bibliophiles talk about books, my husband managed to take a few photos of the Boston Public Garden which I also explored a little bit the day after. Here are a few that he has taken (and post-processed by me, of course). Enjoy!
Perfect pond for the Mallard Family
I love how this was beautifully captured in the picture book.
Again, an intimate rendering of these swan boats.
My ten year old fairy. My own little duckling.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Published by Puffin Books, a Division of Penguin Books, 1941. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos were taken by me.
Caldecott Medal Book. AWB Reading Challenge: 83 (35)
Caldecott Challenge Update: 14 of 24
PictureBook Challenge Update: 91 of 120
Love this post and those ducklings. What a beautiful classic. I haven’t seen the duck sculptures either. Boston’s such a great city, isn’t it?
This brings back such fond memories, Myra. My daughter went to college in Boston & I have taken my students there twice. We have sat by the ducks and read McCloskey’s beautiful story. We have ridden the swan boats and we have given speeches at the public park where many in our history have spoken. It’s a beautiful place. I’m so glad your daughter and husband were able to see the park, & sorry you missed it. Thanks for this, & for the links which I wasn’t aware of.
I’m a Boston native and grew up with this book! The statues are a more recent addition, ill have to take my son to see them. A popular thing to do is to take a photo of your child sitting on the mother duck statue.
I’ve read that McCloskey had color illustrations ready, but the publisher wanted to go with a less expensive single color printing, so he had to redo all the illustrations. He chose brown since he thought it would give a warmer feeling than plain black and white illustrations.
Lovely post Ma’am Myra! I’ll take note of this place whenever I visit my dad in Boston. 🙂
Ah, this reminds me of home. Thanks!
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