Happy birthday, Robert McCloskey


(Photo © 2006 by Freeman F. Brown)

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Robert McCloskey, . . . the author and illustrator of children’s books, born in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1914. He grew up loving music, especially the harmonica. He said, “The musician’s life was the life for me — that is, until I became interested in things electrical and mechanical. … The inventor’s life was the life for me — that is, until I started making drawings for the high school annual.” He got a scholarship to art school in Boston, and he did well there. But afterward, he couldn’t make it as an artist, and all he sold were a few watercolors of Cape Cod. One day, he went to visit an editor of children’s books in New York City, and he brought along his portfolio. It was filled with fantasy scenes, with magic and strange beasts. He took the images and the characters and the stories from life there, and he wrote and illustrated a picture book about a regular boy in a regular Midwestern town. The boy can’t whistle, so he learns to play the harmonica, and the boy and his harmonica save the day when the mayor’s homecoming celebration is almost ruined. This book was called Lentil (1940), and the next year he published Make Way for Ducklings (1941), which won a Caldecott. In 1987, bronze sculptures of Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings from the book were installed in the Boston Public Garden. McCloskey also wrote Blueberries for Sal (1948) and Time of Wonder (1957).

Robert McCloskey said, “I get a lot of letters. Not only from children but from adults, too. Almost every week, every month, clippings come in from some part of the world where ducks are crossing the street.”

The Writer’s Almanac is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media.

The photo above is of the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture in Boston.

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