Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey is a name that you probably recognize, even if you can't place his books immediately. But once I spout off some titles, such as Blueberries for Sal, or Make Way for the Ducklings and you'll probably nod and know exactly what and who I'm talking about.

Born in 1914, he won three Caldecott Medals: the first was for Make Way for the Ducklings (1942), the second for One Morning in Maine (1953) and the third for A Time of Wonder (1958).

McClosky was born and raised in Ohio, actually (which should make some of my Ohio friends right proud!) When he was in high school he took an interest in art. He won a scholarship to the Vesper George Art School in Boston. From there he went on to the National Academy of Design in New York.

He married a lady (and fellow author!) by the name of Margaret (Peggy) Durand in 1940 and they were married for 51 years before Peggy died. The two of them made their home in New York before World War II, but but after the war was over they moved to Maine. The couple had two daughters, Sarah and Jane. (Blueberries for Sal was modeled after his wife and daughter Sarah.) During the war, McCloskey served in the Army where they put his skills as an artist to work drawing training pictures! It was during World War II that McCloskey wrote and had published Homer Price (1943).

Taken from the Wikipedia page, this is a list of his books in which he was both the author and the illustrator:
  • Lentil (1940)
  • Make Way for Ducklings (1941), a Caldecott Medal Book
  • Homer Price (1943)
  • Blueberries for Sal (1948), a Caldecott Honor Book
  • Centerburg Tales: More Tales of Homer Price (1951, also titled More Homer Price)
  • One Morning in Maine (1952), a Caldecott Honor Book
  • Time of Wonder (1957), a Caldecott Medal Book
  • Burt Dow, Deep Water-man (1963)
"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." ~ Robert McCloskey
Recently, we've had the opportunity to read through some of McClosky's books that we had never read before.

For starters, I found an older copy of Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man at a local used-book store. I was delighted to see that it featured a sperm whale (and so was Bookworm1!) The story is kind of long so I wasn't sure how well my 3 1/2 year old would take to it, but I needn't have worried. McCloskey has a certain charm about him. His writing style if unique and subtly humorous. I read somewhere that he is considered an original American humorist. I think I would be tempted to agree after reading his books this past month.

In this particular story, we meet Burt Dow who loves to go out in the deep see on his ridiculously rickety boat called the "Tidely-Idley." A storm blows up unexpectedly and the Tidely-Idley is taking in water in its "tender parts." Dow finds refuge inside of a whale and the story just becomes more silly from there. This was a super fun book for both mommy (good story line!) and Bookworm1 (good story and awesome illustrations of the whale!) In fact, when we were done reading this book, Bookworm1 requested an instant re-read. Looks like I have a little McCloskey fan on my hands. (Provided he's talking about ocean life, I guess.)

Now, I had never read Homer Price until just last week. I figured it was time to rectify the situation and promptly did so upon picking up a copy. I found this story as a whole to be downright charming and totally unbelievable. If you aren't aware of who Homer Price is, suffice it to say that he's a young lad with remarkable ability to locate problems, create/fix/solve them in ridiculous ways. The adults around him never seem to know what's going on or what to do about it. Truly, it's unbelievable.

But! Instead of being rankled by the fact that McCloskey suspends belief, you just find yourself chuckling along. He has a way of making the ridiculous humorous and so you find yourself just going with the flow of things.

As it turns out, one of the chapters from this book - The Doughnuts - was turned into a short film. I found the 1963 clip on Youtube and it's HYSTERICAL. For one thing - it follows the storyline very well. The actors are entirely perfect for their roles. However, it still has a 1963 quality and feel to it. I am including it here for your education and amusement. =) I wonder what McCloskey thought of it!

I'm really enjoying getting to know more about this author, through understanding his personal life a bit better and educating ourselves on some titles that we had not previously read.

Robert McCloskey seems like a fun guy and we're happy to know him.


DanaB said...

Oh, how we have LOVED this author! My teenagers both have fond memories of his books... While I adore my teens and this stage of life, I sure do miss having wee ones around all the time to read with!


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Oh, one of our favorites! Great post, Carrie! I still haven't read Homer Price, but I will! :-)

Here's my own little author/illustrator spotlight post

Sky said...

As much as I loved Robert McCloskey's books when I was little I forgot about him for my own children!
Thanks for the reminder!

Barbara H. said...

They had that film on video at the library my kids and I went to when they were young. They watched it over and over. McCloskey was one of our favorite authors.

Stephanie said...

Homer Price was our very first chapter book and I was surprised at how well N1 stuck with it even at 4. I look forward to reading it again with her. Also, I don't know you have ever read the Henry Read books, but Robert McCloskey did all the illustrations for that series and those are some of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITES from childhood. Since you are the mom of boys, you really MUST read them. Must, must, must. : )

Stephanie Kay said...

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE McCloskey!! One day this summer I am taking my children to Boston to follow Make Way for Ducklings and see the statues. We also read his books set in Maine before our vacation to Maine last year.

Unknown said...

Great post!

I love our copy of Make Way for Ducklings, because we bought it in Boston as a souvenir, because we spent time in that park. It makes it a bit more special.

Mozi Esme said...

Love this author, too!

We've started a new Bulletin Board feature at Winning Readings, and Mondays are Winning Kids days. We'd love to have you link up kids' book-related posts like this one there...

Anonymous said...

He is one of my favorites! My sons love "One Morning in Maine". It is such a simple, slow story, but they absolutely love it. Whenever we have clam chowder, they always quote it and it always comes up when teeth are lost. :)

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