Sunday, August 7, 2011

Make Way For Robert McCloskey Statues

A few years ago when I was in Boston, I had hoped to show my daughter Nancy Schon's statue of the ducklings that were immortalized in Robert McCloskey's book Make Way for Ducklings. Both of my children loved this childhood classic and listened to the story again and again. Unfortunately, on our one day in Boston, it was miserably hot, we'd walked for hours on end, and I had a terrible headache. We did venture into the Public Gardens where the sculpture was erected, but we were on the opposite end, and didn't have the energy to drag our then six-year-old daughter around to find it, especially since she was content to splash in the wading pool and I just wanted to sit in the shade. Still, I wish I'd seen that sculpture.

Then, I learned that Robert McCloskey was born in Hamilton, Ohio - practically right here in my hometown. I couldn't believe it! I'd had no idea that such an accomplished author/illustrator hailed from Hamilton. He's a two-time Caldecott winner, for Pete's sake!

Further investigation lead me to discover that a sculpture honoring McCloskey's work had been commissioned here in his home town. I went looking for the statue and was sure I'd found it at the end of the bridge crossing the river where there is a sculpture of two flying mallards. The ducks were here!

Nope. Wrong ducks.

I've driven by the sculpture hundreds of time, assuming that this was Hamilton's Make Way for Ducklings representation. But then as I was walking through Hamilton, I finally read the placard. It has nothing to do with Make Way for Ducklings at all. This wasn't the McCloskey statue! It was actually across the river on Front Street. And though it wasn't a sculpture of Make Way for Ducklings, it was a sculpture created by the same woman who had created the Boston art piece.

Lentil and his dog, Harmony, walking through Lentil Park in Hamilton, Ohio.

Hamilton's statue depicts another of McCloskey's works: Lentil. It's the story of a boy who wanders around town playing his harmonica and meeting people. I can't help but agree that Lentil is much more appropriate for Hamilton than the ducklings that settled in Boston. Surely McCloskey had Hamilton in mind when he wrote it. In fact, it was probably loosely autobiographical; McCloskey played the harmonica, too.

I still wish I'd seen the ducklings sculpture, but am thrilled to know that another piece of children's literature greatness is practically right here in my own backyard.

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