Column: 75 years of making way for ducklings


Commentary by Jennifer Ingersoll

Students at West Clay Elementary may remember me for my love of reading with them. Among the books, I would happily share, “Make Way for Ducklings; The Art of Robert McCloskey,” was one. The story tells of the adventures of a mallard family making their home in Boston Public Garden. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of this timeless classic, by hosting a special exhibit, “Make Way for Ducklings; The Art of Robert McCloskey.”

McCloskey was a gifted artist and turned to writing children’s books and illustration as a livelihood early in his career. Advised to draw what he knew best, McCloskey came up with the idea for Ducklings while living in Boston. During one of his daily walks through the Garden, he observed ducks snarling traffic while attempting to cross the street.

Drawn in pencil, the art was intended to be a work of watercolor illustrations. However, the price of colored printing was too costly at the time, so the sketches remained printed in brown ink. McCloskey himself drew all the of the award-winning illustrations in reverse on lithograph plates for printing.

On display through June 18, the exhibit shares the art, from preliminary drawings to final illustrations, for his seven books including “Blueberries for Sal” and “One Morning in Maine,” drawing on his experiences of summer vacations in Maine with his daughters, Sally and Jane. The most popular of McCloskey’s stories, “Make Way for Ducklings” was the inspiration for the famous sculpture, by the same name, displayed within the Boston Public Gardens since 1987.

Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (465 Huntington Ave.) is free for children under 17. Open Saturday – Tuesday, 10 a.m. -5 p.m. and Wednesday – Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.. For more information visit



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