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Children's Literature Review-Robert McCloskey-"Make Way for Ducklings"
A beautifully done Caldecott Medal Winnder this picture book is illustrated completely with brown conte', a paste like artists tool. The effect of this illustration choice is to ad texture to everything, while allowing it all to be soft in a way that only the whispiness of a soft medium can provide. The first full page spread is of a pair of ducks as they fly over the landscape looking for a place to nest. With his mastery of perspective McCloskey allows the background to fall back to show the New English country side in its full glory.
The mother duck however is critical of this landscape, worrying about foxes and turtles which might hurt her baby ducklings, and so they fly on. The next double spread however brings them to Boston where they discover a little island, though there is not much food in the water people throw them food from the boats around the island.
They have just decided to settle down, with a double page spread of what appears to be a calm restfull park scene but , the ducks are unfortunatly standing right in the bike path, so in the next double page spread they are nearly run over. And so they search on, through forced perspective pictures of Boston below them. Finally they settle on a little island in the Charles River.
It is here that they meet a friendly policeman who feeds them peanuts. Michael as the policeman is called is a tall yet rounded figure, much as many benifactor figures from Santa on, his appearince lets the readers know instantly that he can be trusted.
And so their children are born, into brillient illustrations of family moments. The reasoning for the color brown becomes clear at this point for through it the viewer gets a sense of family and home. Further the earthy nature of the book allows the wilderness like nature of the little ducklings and their parents show through even in the city scapes in which they have made their home.
One day Siss Mrs. Mallard leads the little ducklings out of the water, however again the danger is shown as the cars are seen in the distance. These cars nearly hit the little ducks, who are saved by Micheal as he stops traffic for them, and then calls in a number of other police to come help him insure that the ducklings make it to the lake and park.
The illustrations that follow are pictures that few but McCloskey could draw properly, their dynamic energy, as the police work to save the little ducks, and the emotion that occurs as the people of Boston come into contact with them. What makes this book stand out is how heart warming it is even though as a story it is very simple. for the people all get to benifit from the presince of the little ducklings.