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Make Way For Ducklings - Robert McCloskey

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

Make Way For Ducklings was Robert McCloskey’s second children’s book and, in 1941, it was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal. Now, 66 years later, it’s available for the first time in a full-sized paperback edition.

Described by the New York Times as “one of the merriest picture books ever”, Make Way For Ducklings begins with Mr and Mrs Mallard looking for a place to live. The Public Garden seems an ideal spot – no foxes or turtles and peanuts aplenty from kind passers-by. However, for new born ducklings there are dangers of a different kind – bicycles….

And so the Mallards move on – to an island in a nearby river and there Mrs Mallard lays eight eggs, all of which duly hatch. In time, Mr Mallard sets off to explore the river but not before promising to meet Mrs Mallard “in a week, in the Public Garden”.

This does, however, leave Mrs Mallard the unenviable task of teaching the eight duckling “ how to swim and dive…to walk in a line” and, perhaps more importantly, to keep out of harm’s way. Then, and only when she’s completely satisfied with their progress, she begins the perilous journey to the Public Garden.

It’s an enchanting story, beautifully illustrated in soft shades of brown, but what makes it so special is the setting – the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Familiar landmarks, such as Beacon Hill and the State House, Louisburg Square, the Charles River and, of course, the Public Garden with its miniature Brooklyn Bridge and unique Swan Boats, are all lovingly depicted.

Although primarily entertaining, Make Way For Ducklings will also teach little ones much about these lowly creatures that bring so much joy to thousands of children the world over – not just from the text but from the perceptive and delightful illustrations.

If you’re already familiar with the city of Boston, you will, of course, know that there’s a bronze sculpture of Mrs Mallard and her eight ducklings in the Public Garden – a fitting tribute indeed to a book that has stood the test of time and continues, even now, to delight generations of children – and, I suspect, adults too. Make Way For Ducklings is definitely not to be missed.