Review of Make Way, written by Angela Burke Kunkel, illustrated by Claire Keane

Make Way

The Story of Robert McCloskey, Nancy Schön, and Some Very Famous Ducklings

written by Angela Burke Kunkel
illustrated by Claire Keane

Random House Studio, 2023. 44 pages.
Review written June 13, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

This is a story of the duckling statues in Boston Public Garden. But deeper than that, it’s the story of two artists — Bob McCloskey, who created the classic book Make Way for Ducklings, and Nancy Schön, who made sculptures of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, for the Boston Public Garden.

I love those sculptures and visit them every time I go to Boston. In the front of my family’s copy of Make Way for Ducklings, I taped a photo of my firstborn at two years old, happily posing on the back of Mrs. Mallard.

So you need to read your child Make Way for Ducklings first. But after that, after your kid knows about the story, here’s a child-friendly story of how it was created.

It talks about both artists going through hard times before their art was acknowledged in any way. It tells how Bob brought ducks home in order to draw them from life. Later, Nancy purchased a duck foot from a butcher to learn how it was put together. (Wait a second. That’s not as charming a story. But it works in this picture book.)

After the book was created, a friend’s family visited Nancy in Boston. When they visited the Public Garden, the kids asked, “Mommy, where are the ducks?” Nancy decided that would be her next sculpture project.

The pictures of her working on the ducks are wonderful. I always did think she chose the most delightful poses. And they mirror the ducks in the books so well — in three dimensions.

But she didn’t have any permission for this project before she worked on it. So we’ve got a spread showing Bob and his wife looking over her small-scale models.

My favorite page, though, is after she made a full-scale Mrs. Mallard and three ducklings. Bob thought they might be too large. So she brought them outside.

And as Bob stands, quietly observing, three children run — quack, quack, quacking — to come and pat the ducks.
Bob looks at Nancy.
And she knows she has her yes.

I love that page because I’ve seen for myself that children can’t resist those wonderful ducks.

This book owes its brilliance to the original amazing children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, but it is still brilliant. Fans of the original will love learning the story behind the story, and any family traveling to Boston should give it a read.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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