As a boy in Hamilton, Ohio, Bob was always able to look at an object and draw or carve or sculpt it. As a young girl in Newton, Massachusetts, Nancy loved to work with nature to create three dimensional sculptures. Bob went on to study art in Boston. Nancy headed to the library after school to study ancient architecture. Both Nancy and Bob grew up hoping to one day be artists. Both faced rejection as they pursued their craft, yet both refused to give up. Eventually Bob came up with the idea to create a story about a family of ducks looking for a home in Boston’s Public Gardens. Make Way for Ducklings, published in 1941, became a classic children’s picture book and won a Caldecott Medal in 1942. Meanwhile, Nancy continued to struggle to find a place to belong. When her family moved to Boston Nancy would stroll through the Public Gardens. Inspired by a young child who wanted to know where Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their family of ducklings were in the park, Nancy came up with an idea for a new project. After creating a prototype of the famous duck family, Nancy worried. The Mallards were Robert McCloskey’s characters, would he approve? Nancy didn’t know Bob, but that didn’t stop her. She invited Bob to visit her studio to view the statue and discuss the possibility of an installation in the Public Gardens. At first Bob was reluctant. He thought the ducks were too small. Undeterred, Nancy re-sculpted the statue on a larger scale. When Bob returned to look at Nancy’s second attempt, he suggested the statue was now too big. Nancy explained to Bob that outdoor sculptures often look too big when displayed inside. To prove her point, Nancy hauled her creation to the sidewalk in front of her house. Bob remained skeptical until a group of children walking down the street started quacking and petting the statue of the Mallard family. The bronze sculpture depicting Mrs. Mallard, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack was installed in Boston’s Public Gardens in 1987. Bob and Nancy remained close friends until his death in 2003.
THOUGHTS: This enchanting story cleverly weaves the biographical narratives of Robert McCloskey and Nancy Schön through their parallel stories of artistic perseverance. Not unlike the infamous Mallard family, Bob and Nancy each want to find a place to belong and to thrive while raising their families. The full-color illustrations by Claire Keane cleverly pay homage to McCloskey’s sepia sketch style as used in Make Way for Ducklings. A delightful read aloud that will enchant fans of the original picture book.
813.54 Literature, English (North American)
American Fiction, 20th Century, 1945-1999