Throwback Thursday: Happy 75th Anniversary, Make Way for Ducklings!

Here are five things you may not know about the beloved Boston children's book.

make way for ducklings

Photo by Anna Buckley

Originally published in 1941, the beloved story of a family of mallards waddling around Boston turns 75 this year.

Make Way for Ducklings was written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, and won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for its illustrations. The famous story has been immortalized in the Public Garden with Nancy Schön’s bronze statue, which is said to be sat on so often by children that it never needs to be polished.

To celebrate the three-quarter century anniversary, here are five things you may not know about the book:

1. In an effort to properly draw the tiny ducklings, McCloskey bought a few live ducklings to observe. They ruled the roost in McCloskey’s studio apartment, waddling around and making a bit of a mess. The ducklings often moved too quickly for him to observe, so one evening, he decided to give the ducks a sip of his red wine. And it worked—they slowed down enough for him to draw them.

2. Critics have called the book’s main character, Mrs. Mallard, one of the first feminist children’s book characters. Why? Mrs. Mallard is a capable female who completes the single-parented act of transporting her children safely across a busy road.

3. A replica of the bronze duckling statues in the Public Garden is situated in Moscow’s Novodevichy Park. First Lady Barbara Bush presented the statues to Russian First Lady Raisa Gorbachev in 1991.

4. How did McCloskey depict Boston so expertly if he lived in New York City? He actually attended the now defunct Vesper George School of Art in the 1930s. Formerly located on St. Botolph Street, the school closed in 1983.

5. It’s no secret that Make Way for Ducklings is the official children’s book of the Commonwealth, but the book didn’t earn the title easily. After a group of students from Canton proposed a bill to make it the official children’s book in 2000, representatives from Springfield blocked the bill in an effort to ensure the official book be one of Dr. Seuss’s, who was native of Springfield. According to the Patriot Ledger, the legislators compromised by deeming Dr. Seuss the official children’s author of the Commonwealth, and Make Way for Ducklings as the official children’s book.