UP!–Robert McCloskey: KidLit Legend

Portrait from Cincinnati dot com

It’s hard to believe it’s been 1 1/2 years since I first drafted this post. It was almost a year before I actually launched my blogs! Now that there’s a break between posts involving ReRead-alongs, events I’ve attended and KidLit-related occasions to acknowledge, I can finally share with you this little celebration of a truly great talent:

In wanting to know a bit more about illustrators whose work I admire, I discovered to what extent author/illustrator Robert McCloskey’s work touched the world.          

As a renowned author and illustrator, Robert McCloskey has influenced many in the field of children’s literature. Born on September 14, 1914, Robert’s childhood was spent in post-World War I America, in Hamilton, Ohio, with his parents and two younger sisters. His interests were of a creative nature, developing at an early age. Along with art, he enjoyed music, having learned to play the harmonica. He also had a penchant for inventing mechanical devices, which led his parents to encourage him to pursue a career in auto mechanics, believing art was not a viable way to earn a living. However, art won out.

Make Way for DucklingsIn 1932, Robert won a scholarship to the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, then went on to study at the National Academy of Design in New York. He began his art career doing fine art watercolors, but quickly realized it was, in fact, a difficult way to earn a living. That steered him toward the field of illustration for children’s books. Initially, his portfolio contained paintings and drawings of fantastical creatures such as dragons and Pegasus. May Massee, the editor he met at Viking Junior Books, suggested he rethink his focus of art content. He then moved back to Ohio, at which time her influence led him to begin drawing subject matter based on reality. The result was his first book Lentil, about a Midwestern, harmonica-playing boy.


Mallards sculpture by Nancy Schon

Sculpture by Nancy Schon

After Lentil was published, Robert returned to Boston, Massachusetts. In revisiting the Boston Public Garden, he noticed the problem ducks had making their way through traffic, and having heard stories about them was inspired to write Make Way for Ducklings, the 1942 Caldecott Medal Winner (and my personal favorite). His work was so beloved, upon his passing in 2003, Make Way for Ducklings was named the official state book of Massachusetts. Also, visitors of the Boston Public Garden can see the bronze sculpture of the famous mallard procession, sculpted by Nancy Schon. There is also an annual, philanthropic “Make Way for Ducklings” event hosted by Boston Babies, to benefit those in need.

Time of Wonder

Blueberries for SalHaving sometimes used his wife and daughters as models, during the course of Robert McCloskey’s illustrious career, he wrote and illustrated 8 books for children, including another Caldecott Winner (Time of Wonder – 1958) and 2 Caldecott Runners-Up (Blueberries for Sal – 1948; One Morning in Maine – 1952). He also illustrated a dozen books written by other authors, one written by his mother-in-law, Ruth Sawyer, which won a Caldecott Honor (Journey Cake, Ho! – 1953). Among his many accomplishments, in 1991, with President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush, he presented his “ducklings” to the children of Russia. Rightfully so, he was bestowed with the Living Legend medal by the Library of Congress, in 2000.

             One Morning in Maine                    Journey Cake, Ho!

For additional information on the life and work of Robert McCloskey:


            Wikipedia, which includes a full list of his children’s books with links


Robert McCloskey by Jane McCloskey


Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures

  by Jane McCloskey (his daughter)


Make Way for McCloskey


Make Way for McCloskey

with an introduction by Leonard S. Marcus (Children’s Book Historian) published by Penguin Group

Robert McCloskey by Jill C. Wheeler


Robert McCloskey

by Jill C. Wheeler

(Juvenile Literature – Children’s Illustrators) published by ABDO Publishing Company

A Robert McCloskey Collection

A Robert McCloskey Collection

published by Penguin Group

Have you read any books by Robert McCloskey? Do you have a favorite? How about a special memory attached to one or more of his books?

21 thoughts on “UP!–Robert McCloskey: KidLit Legend

  1. Okay, have you read Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature yet? It certainly has changed my perspective on Make Way for Ducklings.

    I do love Blueberries for Sal — that is a favorite. We read that one until the book literally fell apart in my hands. I’ll have to pick up another copy soon. It has been far too long since we’ve read that one.

    Great article! You certainly have a way with words!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ayear and a half, that is impressive, it is also interesting to note that you are the blogger I’ve come across who has gone to the trouble of making friends before properly launching your blog. I haven’ come across McCloskey before but will certainly go and explore his work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ste J, McCloskey is definitely worth a look-see. And they are picture books and storybooks, so their brevity is easier to fit in, especially considering the many tomes you often find yourself reading! 😀

      And with my blogs, it was a combo of things that kept me from launching, the first being that I wasn’t going to do it until I had them all figured out as far as my intentions for content, the “feel,” etc., and that required a lot of time and effort. The time has always been the biggest problem and it was a self-imposed deadline (I wanted to create and post a Dot for International Dot Day) that finally brought the projects to the forefront to get all the artwork done and everything figured out as best I could (still no posting schedule sigh). When I finally allowed myself to be active on Twitter and also start following blogs, I was naturally pulled into (as I fully expected) the worlds of other people, so many of them fun and interesting, including you and yours, and I’m so glad you’re one of them 😀

      With all that said, the year and a half since I’d written this post (and the ones on Newbery and Caldecott) was simply how it worked out. I was compelled to write them well before I was launched and figured to someday post them—which I have! 😀


      • It is a very professional way of doing a blog, planning it out writing in advance, I think most of us just slop a post onto a new blog and just go with it lol. Making it take time to evolve and grow but with you, you established a readership and made friends first and its paying off.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello Donna. What a wonderful post about a great writer/illustrator. I have some of his books in my classroom library. He is one very talented person. Love his sculptures!! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Lora! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂 I hope you’re well. He was definitely amazing and I was more impressed when I was doing the research. And these ducks weren’t sculpted by him (if that’s what you’re referring to). They were made in honor of his book, by Nancy Schon 😀


  4. Donna, This is such a terrific post. Thanks for sharing the link. I didn’t realize that Make Way for Ducklings was just McCloskey’s second book and named the state book of Massachusetts. Wow!


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