There are many charmed life moments with three-year-olds. Their understanding of distance is pretty unparalleled (to live far away is either Brimfield. Or Egypt. Nothing in between); their questions are intensely-stumping (why don’t spiders get stuck in each other’s webs?); and moments you’ve (silently) been longing for turn out well worth the wait.
Ten years ago today, Robert McCloskey, author of the 1941 Boston Public Garden-centric picture book Make Way for Ducklings, passed away. A careful artist, McCloskey decided on brown ink for the final product and actually drew his copy on metal sheets which were set onto the press. This allowed his beautiful illustrations higher clarity.*
When I was young (and even more so now) I was sold by page one.
I’ve been waiting for this chance to bring Henry and Sophia into Boston where we could journey to this anticipated location – at an age when they could start to better see how the leaves of books and those of the physical world can occupy the same page. I also think I was unintentionally trying to recapture a moment when the city was brought to a standstill for reasons other than those this spring.
So for this exercise I tried to take on a child’s eye view and document our day (in homage to McCloskey, with brown). Acting the part is pretty easy (minus the height requirement), but I started noticing everything from short opened gates, trees as tall as clouds and paved trails just desperate to walk you through a story.
And then – then, of course, is the silently gliding centerpiece.
As is identifying the still-present elements of the story, “There is the water!” “There is the island!” “The bridge!” “The swan boat!”
We found them all.
We also saw artists sharing their work; we fortuitously saw eight ducklings and a poised swan; we admired the recently bloomed roses, held back the willows’ leaves so they wouldn’t fall into the water; we climbed on the Nancy Schön bronze replica and read Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings the story (because I’m sure they haven’t heard it enough).
Last Fall, as my final-elective, I took a children’s literature course. It was out of this world. I had a few opportunities to meet and hear authors and illustrators as well as have copies of their works signed for the twins.
My (awesome) professor remarked, “Your children will have quite a collection.”
Though part of me is (unrealistically) sad that Henry and Sophia will never have an inscribed Make Way for Ducklings to add to their little (but growing) collection, after making this pilgrimage to his Public Garden, I guess I feel like he already did sign their copies.
* Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004 p. 30-1.