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Book description

Book description
Make Way for Ducklings begins with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard looking for a place to call home so they can settle down and start a family. After flying around and rejecting locations for various reasons, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard take a break and land at the Boston Public Garden. Most of their experiences at the BPG are promising, but after both nearly get run over by a child on a bicycle, Mrs. Mallard decides it would not be the ideal place to start a family — at least not yet. So Mr. and Mrs. Mallard end up settling on an island in the Charles River — this is where their eight ducklings hatch. After this, Mr. Mallard goes back to the BPG and tells Mrs. Mallard to meet him there in a week. During this time, Mrs. Mallard teaches her ducklings how swim, march in a row, and avoid dangers such as bicycles and cars. After seven days, Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings walk up to dry land and attempt to cross the street. What follows next is a most charming story of how the police help “escort” Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings to the Boston Public Garden so she can be reunited with Mr. Mallard and, of course, all live happily ever after.(My only criticism of the story line is this: I don’t understand why the Boston Public Gardens was deemed an unfit place to build a nest, lay eggs and have them hatch because a mere seven days after the ducklings hatch, Mrs Mallard and the eight ducklings return to the BPG. I know this is a children’s picture book, and sometimes the duration of events are condensed, but I do find it doubtful that in just seven days Mrs. Mallard was able to teach her ducklings “everything” they would need to know to travel safely to and be safe at the Boston Public Gardens.)Make Way for Ducklings is set in Boston, Massachusetts. I’m sure people who call (or once called) Boston their home, will have fun seeing streets and landmarks from their home town in the story. Such places include: the Boston Public Garden (of course!), Beacon Hill, the State House, Louisburg Square, the Charles River, Mount Vernon Street, the Corner Book Shop, Charles Street, and Beacon Street. Those living in Boston now can note which features of the 1941 cityscape have changed or remained the same — certainly the cars look different now!The art is truly lovely — McCloskey originally wanted full-color illustrations (more on that below), but the brown ink is so warm and natural and just so perfect. The illustrations of the ducks and their environment are also very true-to-life. Some of the illustrations are done from an aerial perspective — readers can see Mr. and Mrs. Mallard flying and looking down at the city below. Sometimes the city looks closer or farther away depending on how high Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are flying — it’s quite a special touch.The front end papers shows the progress of one duckling hatching from an egg, but illustration isn’t that large and there is still a lot of “white space” on the front end papers — the rear end papers are blank. As someone who adores printed end papers, I feel this was a missed opportunity. I know printed end papers are an added expense (and maybe this wasn’t a common thing to do back in 1941), but it would have been over-the-top terrific to have the end papers feature a map of Boston or even just more illustrations of ducklings hatching from eggs.Overall, Make Way for Ducklings is a great story with stunning natural-looking art. I’m not sure if I ever read Make Way for Ducklings as a child — I discovered this new-to-me title while reading 100 Best Books for Children: A Parents Guide to Making the Right Choices for Your Young Reader, Toddler to Preteen (my review here). In 100 BBFC, Silvey relates the stories behind the stories and the one for Make Way for Ducklings was my favorite. Below is the scoop on the inspiration for the story, the artistic process, and some production details.As an art student spending at the Boston Public Garden drawing, McCloskey heard about a family of ducks who had stopped traffic on Beacon Street. He was charmed by this bit of news and began to write a story based on this true event. However, McCloskey had difficulty with the illustrations — specifically the ducks. As Silvey relates:“Although the story line emerged with some clarity, McCloskey soon found he could neither think like a duck nor draw one. After studying mallards for two years at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, he purchased ducks, which he brought home to a Greenwich Village apartment and kept in the bathtub. Raising a terrible racket, the ducks woke up at the break of day; McCloskey followed them around with a Kleenex in one hand and a sketchpad in the other. When he couldn’t get them to sit still long enough, he actually gave them wine to drink. Eventually all his diligence paid off in the final drawings.” (pages 30 – 31)I just love how obsessed (but in a good way) McCloskey was about getting his illustrations to look as perfect and true-to-life as they could. It’s truly hard to believe with illustrations like this that he ever had trouble thinking like a duck or drawing one!The Make Way for Ducklings vignette from 100 BBFC is filled with all sorts of other intriguing behind-the-scenes details. For example, McCloskey wanted the book to be printed in full-color. However, this proved pricey and also was not a financial risk the publisher wanted to take on a new author/illustrator. Thus the cover is green and the illustrations are done in brown ink. Another tidbit shares the original names of the ducks: “Mary, Martha, Phillys, Theodore, Beatrice, Alice, George, and John.” In the final edition the duck names have been changed to: “Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.”On the 150th anniversary of the Boston Public Garden (October 4, 1987) bronze statues were installed near the gates made famous by the book. (Statue by Nancy Schön)all of my reviews can be found at www.isniffbooks.wordpress.com
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