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[Deathwatch] Robert McCloskey, children's author, 88

'Make Way for Ducklings' author dead
Robert McCloskey won two Caldecotts, based books on life
Wednesday, July 2, 2003 Posted: 2:37 PM EDT (1837 GMT)


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Robert McCloskey, author and illustrator of the
beloved children's books "Make Way for Ducklings," "Homer Price" and
"Blueberries for Sal," has died at 88. 

McCloskey died Monday at a home on Deer Isle after a long illness, said
Katrina Weidknecht, director of publicity at Penguin Books for Young

His books, often inspired by his family's own experiences, focused on
small-town life, the family's island home in Maine, and Boston, the
setting for his 1941 book "Make Way for Ducklings," about a mother duck
who leads her eight ducklings through the busy streets of the big city.

In all, he wrote and illustrated eight children's picture books. 

"It is just sort of an accident that I write books. I really think up
stories in pictures and just fill in between the pictures with a
sentence or a paragraph or a few pages of words," he once said. 

McCloskey, a native of Hamilton, Ohio, had come to Boston in 1932 to
study art when he watched some ducklings waddling through traffic. 

"Make Way for Ducklings" was translated into 13 languages, sold more
than 2 million copies and won the Caldecott Medal for the best American
children's picture book. A bronze sculpture of the mother duck and her
eight ducklings is a popular tourist attraction in Boston. 

McCloskey and his wife, Margaret, the daughter of children's author
Ruth Sawyer Durand, and their daughters, Sally and Jane, spent summers
on Scott Island in Maine, leading to "Blueberries for Sal" (1948), "One
Morning in Maine" (1952), and "Time of Wonder" (1957), for which he won
a second Caldecott Medal. 

"Blueberries for Sal" is the story of his wife and daughter
encountering a mother bear and cub while picking blueberries on Deer

The setting for "One Morning in Maine," a story in which young Sal
loses her first tooth, is a garage in South Brooksville, where people
touched by the story still visit. 

"Time of Wonder" features McCloskey and his daughters going to South
Brooksville for groceries and gasoline before a big storm. 

In his 1943 book "Homer Price," McCloskey drew upon his childhood roots
in the Midwest to write about a young inventor. 

McCloskey later recalled some of his own fanciful inventions, including
a failed attempt to make a cotton candy machine. He was having trouble
creating a heating element to melt the sugar. 

"So I put molasses in there. When I turned it on, the molasses shot out
everywhere and formed a wide band that covered the walls, the curtains
and the whole front of me," he told the Bangor Daily News in 1996. 

When he was a child, his parents encouraged him to develop his skills
as a musician and he played the piano, drums, oboe and harmonica.
Later, he became intrigued by motors and gadgets and fancied himself to
be an inventor. 

That all changed, he said, when he started making drawings for the high
school annual. That led to the art scholarship in Boston and his first
commission, bas-reliefs for his hometown municipal building.