Thursday, July 3, 2003

Children's author McCloskey dies

By David Sharp
The Associated Press

Robert McCloskey, author and illustrator of the children's classics Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, has died at age 88.

McCloskey, a native of Hamilton, died Monday at a home on Deer Isle, Maine, after a long illness, a Penguin Books spokeswoman said.

His books, often inspired by his family's own experiences, focused on small-town life and the family's island home in Maine as well as Boston, the setting for his 1941 book Make Way for Ducklings.

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 had come to Boston in 1932 to study art when he watched some ducklings waddling through traffic. In Make Way for Ducklings, the mother mallard brings her eight ducklings to safety in Boston's Public Garden.

It won the Caldecott Medal for the best American children's picture book, and a bronze sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings has become a popular tourist attraction in the park.

McCloskey and his wife, Margaret, the daughter of noted 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 Isle.

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.

His 1943 book Homer Price drew upon his childhood roots in the Midwest to write about a young inventor.

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Children's author McCloskey dies