Smith, Emma Bland. Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards: The Making of Make Way for Ducklings. New York: Calkins Creek, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers, 2022.
How do you become a great writer? How do you become a great artist? By practising, of course. Practising and practising. Over and over and over. When Robert McCloskey, the famed author and illustrator, decided to create a picture book about a family of ducks, he started drawing sketches. But they weren’t very good. He did some research on ducks and tried again, but his sketches still weren’t very good. So he went out and bought a box of ducklings and took them home to live in his studio. You’d think living with ducklings, messy squawking ducklings, would help him know how to create great illustrations. But it wasn’t enough. So he went out and brought home a box of adult ducks. After Mr. McCloskey had practised and practised some more and the ducks really needed to get back outside where they belonged, he was finally satisfied with his pictures. It had taken him six years of researching and writing and drawing to finish his story. But it was worth it. In 1942, Make Way for Ducklings won the Caldecott Award for the most distinguished American children’s picture book! This biography by Smith, illustrated with gouache and coloured pencil drawings by Becca Stadtlander and appended by extensive background information, is highly recommended for students 6 to 10 years old and for anyone of any age who needs encouragement to not give up. Keep practising!
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