Make way for ducklings

Make way for ducklings (Photo credit: Craft*ology)

 

We recently visited our son’s family in Boston. We took our five-year-old grandson from Washington, DC with us to visit our five-year-old granddaughter.

For something a little different to do in Boston, you might consider the New England Aquarium and make a day of it with a duck tour of Boston. We watched the duck tours gaily circling Boston Public Garden.

In our case, however, our daughter-in-law had given our grandson an old, dog-eared copy of Make Way for Ducklings, that charming story written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, published in 1941, of a duck family that wanted to go to Boston Public Garden from their home on the Charles River and the policeman who had befriended them who stopped traffic so they could cross the road safely.

The book won the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations, has sold more than two million copies, and is now immortalized with a string of brass ducks, only a little larger than duck size, in Boston Public Garden, near the lagoon where the also famous Swan boats, as described in the story, still ply the water.

We had lunch at the Cheers bar across the street, on Beacon Street. If you want to know what to do in Boston, you need look no further than a trip to the Public Garden, Boston Common and the blocks near by you can walk around.

We read the book just before we went to find the ducks and duck statue, and everything was comfortably familiar when we found it, exactly as illustrated in the book. We just missed the swan boats, which started operating April 16 this year.

I now read copyright dates when I am reading my children’s books to my grandchildren, so I can tell them, “This belonged to your father when he was a little boy.”

Make Way for Ducklings was published in 1941.

1941.

This is a story about a soon-to-be-mother duck flying around with a soon-to-be-father duck looking for a safe place to nest. After the baby ducks are born, the father duck leaves for some time, promising to meet up with the mother duck and baby ducklings later at a designated place.

Mother duck assures him she will have no problem taking care of the children while he is gone.

Given that the country was within months of war when this book was published, a calmly reassuring story about a mother taking over all family duties while Dad is gone must have resonated.

My own parents married in July of 1941, months before Pearl Harbor. Clearly, they were making their own nesting arrangements in that period Winston Churchill called “The Gathering Storm,” which he subsequently used as a book title.

If I had it to do again, I would ask my parents, “What was it like in the months leading up to the war? Did you have any idea what was coming?”

My father-in-law used to tell the story about how he was getting ready to buy a new tire for his car the next week. The day war was declared, you could no longer buy new tires. All rubber was redirected to the war effort. For the duration, he could only buy retreads or take the bus.

It is too late for me, but it may not be too late for other Boomers to ask their parents what it felt like just before the outbreak of World War II.

And, if you would like a charming book to read to your own grandchildren, may I recommend Make Way for Ducklings.

They won’t care about the historical context. They will just enjoy the pictures.

You can buy it at amazon.com right here, Make Way for Ducklings.

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