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Perseverance in Picture Books

Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards: The Making of MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS written by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander, and published by Calkins Creek.


I consider Emma Bland Smith one of today's best writers of picture book biographies. In her latest book, Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards: The Making of MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, she and illustrator Becca Stadtlander lead readers into the backstory of Caldecott winning author and illustrator Robert McCloskey's process as he created his most famous title.


Readers of all ages will be amazed at how much work and attention go into creating quality picture books. And when it's done right, generations of children are gifted with great story and art.


This story begins at the moment when Mr. McCloskey is struggling to draw his ducklings just right. Immediately, young readers will relate to his frustration. They may also relate to his disappointment each time his editor May Massee who, like teachers often do, told him to try again.


After a brief flashback to show his inspiration for Make Way for Ducklings, the narrative continues to show all the lengths to which McCloskey went to improve his art... to the point of filling his apartment with ducks and ducklings. "(Mr. McCloskey’s roommate was not amused"


I particularly appreciate the repetition of the lines, "I can do better, he thought. I have to do better!" to show McCloskey's perseverance in giving his best efforts and doing his best work until he achieved his goal.


Becca Stadtlander's delicate and precise illustrations add an entertaining and nostalgic feel to Emma Bland Smith's meticulously researched recounting of the story behind one of America's most iconic children's books.


Back matter includes a letter from McCloskey's daughter, an author note, more information on editor May Massee, a list of all of McCloskey's books, a list of important dates in his life, a bibliography, and acknowledgements.


Imagine It!


Imagine a story you would like to tell or a picture you would like to draw.


Write or draw a first draft without stopping to erase. How did it go?


Maybe it's just the way you like it. If not, what could you do to improve it? Maybe you think there is something not quite right, but you just can't put your finger on it yet.


Look for similar stories to the one you are trying to write, or for similar pictures of what you are trying to draw. Study them closely. How did the author or the artist approach the same idea? You don't have to copy them, but you may be inspired by them.


Surround yourself with as many examples as possible of what you are trying achieve. This suggestion could be equally useful for anything you are working toward (in sports, school, choir, etc.). However, ask a parent before bringing live animals into the house. They may not be amused!


Imagine that!

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