On this day in 2003, children’s author and illustrator Robert McCloskey, whose books include such classics as “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Blueberries for Sal,” dies at age 88 in Deer Isle, Maine.
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1914, McCloskey studied art in Boston and New York in the 1930s. He published his first children’s book, “Lentil,” about a small-town boy who learns to play the harmonica, in 1940. His next book, “Make Way for Ducklings,” released in 1941, is the story of a family of ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack) who waddle after their mother through the streets of Boston before making a permanent home in the city’s Public Garden. Explaining his inspiration for the story, McCloskey told The New York Times: ”I had first noticed the ducks when walking through the Boston Public Garden every morning on my way to art school. When I returned to Boston four years later, I noticed the traffic problem of the ducks and heard a few stories about them. The book just sort of developed from there.” In preparation for the book, McCloskey bought some live ducks to study and sketch. In 1942, “Make Way for Ducklings” won a Caldecott Medal, one of the top honors for American children’s books. In 1987, a bronze sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings was installed in the Boston Public Garden.
In 1943, McCloskey published “Homer Price,” about the adventures of a boy in small-town Ohio. “Centerburg Tales: More Adventures of Homer Price” followed in 1951. McCloskey’s other books, each set in Maine, where he lived with his wife and daughters for much of his life, include: “Blueberries for Sal” (1948), about a girl and a bear cub and their mothers hunting for berries; “One Morning in Maine” (1952), about a little girl who loses her first tooth; Caldecott Medal-winner “Time of wonder” (1957), about children spending their summer vacation on an island off the coast of Maine; and “Burt Dow: Deep-Water Man” (1963) about a fisherman who finds shelter from a storm in a whale’s belly.
In addition to the eight books he wrote and illustrated, McCloskey illustrated 10 children’s books penned by other authors.