Monday, January 30, 2017

Make Way for Ducklings written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard have decided to start a family and are flying around, looking for just the right place in which to raise their ducklings. The woods just might be full of foxes and turtles, and that wouldn't do for raising ducklings.

The prospective parents flew into Boston, circling the Public Garden. This looked like just the right spot to build a nest, even though there wasn't full in the way of food to be found in the pond. Well, at least, not until the Swan Boat sailed by and everyone began to feed Mr. and Mrs. Mallard peanuts. But as soon as they leave the pond, they are almost hit by kids on bikes, and change their minds about the Public Garden.

Flying over Boston, they spot an island in the Charles River, and ultimately decide to give that a go. They build a nice nest, just right for their eight eggs. Things go well, but when the couple swim across the river and try to cross a street, there is too much traffic. Luckily, a kind policeman, Michael, comes to their rescue and the three become friends.

When the eight eggs hatch, and Mrs. Mallard is very busy with Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Quack, Pack, and Quack, Mr. Mallard decides he wants to explore the rest of the river. He tells Mrs. Mallard to meet him in a week at the Public Garden.

Mrs. Mallard teaches her ducklings what they need to know about swimming, diving, walking in a line and what to watch out for. After a week has passed, the family sets off to meet up with Mr. Mallard in the Public Garden.

The little family runs into heavy traffic, but luckily Michael, their old policemen friend, is there to help them on their way. Eventually, they get to the Public Garden, find Mr. Mallard and decide that the park is a jolly spot to live in and raise Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Quack, Pack, and Quack.

Make Way for Ducklings was written in 1941, and after 76 years, it is still a loved by kids and adults alike. It is one of my personal favorites from childhood and I still have my copy. It is just such a feel good, comfort read and it is a wonderful read aloud that kids never seem to get tired of.

The sepia illustrations really capture the movement of the ducks, as they navigate Boston. There is lots of while space on each page, allowing for kids to speculate and make predictions. I love the expressions on the little duckling faces, which are so varied, giving each one its own personality. Perhaps that is because McCloskey studied them so closely while working on Make Way for Ducklings, and small wonder that McCloskey won the Caldecott Medal in 1942 it.

A few years ago, I took a children's literature walking tour of Greenwich Village led by Leonard Marcus. When we got to the corner of Greenwich Avenue and West 4th Street, he pointed out McCloskey's building (which is actually on West 12th Street, but it's the Village, the streets are a mish-mash). We were told that McCloskey lived there with a roommate, fellow artist, Marc Simont, at the time he was writing Make Way for Ducklings, and was studying the behavior of ducks for this book. Eventually, he bought some ducklings, and kept them in the bathtub, studying them.

Make Way for Ducklings has a very old-fashioned feeling to it, yet the story retains all the enjoyment today as it did in 1941. It is playful enough that the old look to cars, the people, even to the police only add to the pleasure of the story.

This book recommended for readers age 3+
This book was bought for my personal library

If you go to Boston, be sure to visit the Public Garden, where there is a statue of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. People love to dress the ducks up for various reasons. They can be seen wearing Easter bonnets, Red Sox jerseys, Christmas hats, and last week, Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings were sporting little pink hats.


  1. Make Way for Ducklings is one of my favourite books of all time – I just love it. I’m also in love with those statues all decked out in their pink hats! I didn’t know the statues existed, but if I ever got to Boston they will be first on my must see list.

  2. I loved this book as a kid, and it's now a favorite of my three-year-old. I look forward to taking my girls to see the statues when they are a little older. I have always thought it was so cool that McCloskey kept actual ducklings in his bathtub while writing this book. I had never heard that Marc Simont was his roommate, though. Fun trivia! Thanks for participating in the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge in January. Looking forward to seeing what you read for February!


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