Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Ducks feature predominantly in children’s books and this book is truly a classic.

Both written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey (1914 – 2003), using sepia ink drawings that perfectly characterise ducks. The eight little ducklings shake their cute little tail feathers and waddle along in a line behind the proud mother duck throughout the story.


This book takes me back to my own childhood and reminds me of the many beautiful books of days gone by that were beautifully written and illustrated – and probably out of print. This book, however, has never been out of print, since first being published in 1941, and is also credited as one of the first picture books to win The Caldecott Medal.

The story begins on the front endpaper with one little duckling making it’s way out of it’s egg and into the world in an eight stage process that ends with him ready to waddle in to the book – proud as punch ! The story begins, however,  before he was born with the mated pair of Mallard ducks looking for the perfectly, safe place for the mother duck to lay her eggs. They choose the Boston Public Garden which turns out to be a perfect but problematic place to raise their young. Luckily there is a network of happy policemen who guide Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings through town and safely back home again when she decides to take them on an outing.

There is a strange little twist at the end – that pulls the reader out of past-tense, ending the story in present tense making the reader feel as if the ducks and their ducklings are still there today! And they actually are ! Local sculptor, Nancy Schon, was commissioned to make a set of eight bronze ducklings following the mother duck – immortalising the story.

After reading this story, set nearly eighty years ago, I feel reminded that although we can note changes over time in this book with things like cars, ‘highways’ and the size of the city – the basics of the human spirit are timeless. We love nature, respect and fight for green spaces in our cities and teach our children values through the excellent examples that are set by animals – most often in picture books !


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