Summer Reading List: Robert McCloskey

Life’s seemingly small occurrences often make for the most entertaining stories. Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Robert McCloskey, knew this well.

For generations McCloskey has continued to captivate audiences with his simple stories and detailed illustrations. While most modern picture books have traded the art of story for TV characters and pithy rhymes, McCloskey’s books are descriptive and narrative masterpieces about everyday life or creatures – as is the case with his most famous book.

A 1942 Caldecott Medal winner, Make Way for Ducklings is the story of a family of Mallards that take up residence in Boston Public Garden, stopping city traffic with the help of some friendly police officers. The story and artistry have continued to charm readers of all ages; the book hasn’t gone out of print since it was published in 1941, selling over 2 million copies.

McCloskey’s obituary in the NY Times reported that the author brought ducks into the studio to study before beginning the book.

The article quoted friend and fellow illustrator Marc Simont as saying: ”He wanted to study them perfectly before he could make a book about them, so he made drawings of them in every position.”

McCloskey is revered for his magical storytelling as well as his illustrations. His single-color block prints shine in his Caldecott Honor book, Blueberries for Sal.

Perhaps loosely based on his oldest daughter, Sal is a lively young girl who temporarily and quite mistakenly exchanges mothers with a baby bear while picking blueberries. Published in 1948, the charming story gives the reader a glimpse into small town life in Maine, where McCloskey lived with his wife and two daughters.

But nowhere does McCloskey’s observation skills soar the highest than in One Morning in Maine. Also a Caldecott Honor book, One Morning in Maine is the story of Sal (now a few years older) who discovers and unpacks the meaning of a loose tooth – with the help of a host of characters inhabiting the Maine coastline.

No less charming than his other books, One Morning in Maine offers children a realistic glimpse at animal and sea life on the coast in the 1950s. Readers vicariously dig for clams with Sal and her father, row a boat to town to buy groceries, and gobble up chocolate ice cream cones at a garage repair shop.

And although McCloskey’s stories are a bit a longer than most modern picture books, they are wonderful transition books for early readers. McCloskey’s thoughtful attention to detail guarantees it.

Check out our other summer reading recommendations:

“Meanwhile Mrs. Mallard had reached the Corner Book Shop and turned into Charles Street, with Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quak all marching in line behind her.” 

Robert McCloskey, Make Way for Ducklings

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About melissa deming

Melissa Deming is a freelance writer transplanted from Texas to Pennsylvania with her husband of ten years, Jonathan, and two-year-old identical twins, Zacharias and Jonah. The family serves at a Southern Baptist church plant in Pittsburgh - Living Faith Community Church. Melissa is a regular correspondent for The Southern Baptist TEXAN newspaper and Crossroads magazine of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. She is also the creator and author of - a site designed to sweeten a woman's walk with Christ through devotional articles, book reviews, and giveaways. Melissa holds a Masters of Divinity in Women’s Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, and a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M University.