Boston ducks inspired tale


WESTON, Conn. -- Robert McCloskey was living on Myrtle Street in Boston and each morning walked through Copley Square and up Huntington Avenue to his art class on St. Botolph Street. First, he had to walk across the Public Garden, which was a favorite place of his.

He did not yet have the idea for his small and famous book that is set there. Fifty years later, however, the story he wrote and the pictures he drew have become so well known that many Americans who have never heard of Oliver Twist know Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their offspring, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack.

DTC Mr. McCloskey is 77, tall and spare, aging with grace and able to remember much of the genesis of "Make Way For Ducklings," still popular after a half century.

To begin with, there was a Mrs. Mallard who had ducklings and trouble crossing Beacon Street. Mr. McCloskey saw Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings about 1938, probably on Charles Street. He filed the scene in his mind, the way storytellers do, and not long after wrote a first draft of the story.

From his home near Westport, Mr. McCloskey expresses surprise and pleasure at the success of this and his other books, which include "Blueberries for Sal," about his daughter Sarah.

The author and painter has refused television producers permission to make Jack and Kack and all the ducklings characters in a series.

"I tell them I am not interested because it is better left as a book. Teachers tell me my books are a teaching tool and can connect children to books," he says. "I think television has too much of its own way."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad