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Robert McCloskey
Born John Robert McCloskey
(1914-09-14)September 14, 1914
Hamilton, Ohio
Died June 30, 2003(2003-06-30) (aged 88)
Deer Isle, Maine, USA
Occupation Writer, illustrator
Nationality American
Alma mater Vesper George Art School
Period 1940–1970
Genre Children's picture books
Notable works
Notable awards Caldecott Medal
1942, 1957
Spouse Margaret Durand
Children Sally, Jane
Relatives Ruth Sawyer (mother-in-law) Melba McCloskey (sister) Dorothy McCloskey (sister) Howard McCloskey (father) Mable McCloskey (mother)

John Robert McCloskey (September 15, 1914 – June 30, 2003) was an American writer and illustrator of children's books. He wrote and also illustrated nine picture books, and won two Caldecott Medals from the American Library Association for the year's best-illustrated picture book. Four of the nine books were set in Maine: Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, Time of Wonder, and Burt Dow, Deep-water Man; the last three were all set on the coast. His best-known work is Make Way For Ducklings, set in Boston. In longer works, he both wrote and illustrated Homer Price and he illustrated Keith Robertson's Henry Reed series.

Personal life

McCloskey was born in Hamilton, Ohio, on September 15, 1914 to Howard and Mabel McCloskey. He had two sisters, Melba and Dorothy. He reached Boston in 1932 with a scholarship to study at Vesper George Art School. After Vesper George, he moved to New York City for study at the National Academy of Design.

In 1940, he married Peggy Durand, daughter of the children's writer Ruth Sawyer. They had two daughters, Sally and Jane, and settled in New York State, spending summers on Scott Island, a small island off Little Deer Isle in East Penobscot Bay. McCloskey's wife and elder daughter Sally are the models for little Sal and her mother in Blueberries for Sal (1948), a picture book set on a "Blueberry Hill" in the vicinity. Three others of his picture books are set on the coast and concern the sea.

Peggy died in 1991. Twelve years later on June 30, 2003, McCloskey died in Deer Isle, Maine.


McCloskey won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for Make Way for Ducklings. The story, set in Boston, Massachusetts, features a mallard pair that nests on an island in the Charles River. After raising eight ducklings on the island, the mother leads them to the Public Garden downtown. A friendly policeman stops traffic to let them cross a busy street. The story soon became a Boston institution. Sculptor Nancy Schön created a bronze statue of Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings in 1987, installed along a walkway between pond and street. There thousands of children climb them every year and many more people photograph them; the park is also the annual site of a Make Way for Ducklings Mother's Day parade, featuring hundreds of children dressed in the costumes of their favorite characters. Since 2003 Make Way for Ducklings is the official children's book of Massachusetts.

McCloskey won a second Caldecott Medal in 1958 for Time of Wonder. Meanwhile, he had been a runner-up in 1949 for Blueberries for Sal, in 1953 for One Morning in Maine, and in 1954 for JourneyCake, Ho!, the latter written by his mother-in-law Sawyer. In a 1958 magazine article titled "Bob McCloskey, Inventor", another Medal winner Marc Simont observed that "[his] talent for devising mechanical contraptions is topped only by his ability to turn out books that carry off the Caldecott Medal."

The Homer Price stories (two books) were translated into Russian-language in the 1970s and became popular in the Soviet Union.

The U.S. Library of Congress named McCloskey a "Living Legend" in 2000.


One chapter from Homer Price was adapted as a short film, The Doughnuts (1963). The same chapter was adapted for an ABC Weekend Special called "Homer and the Wacky Doughnut Machine" (1977). Another chapter, "The Case of the Cosmic Comic", was also adapted as a short film.

In 1964, film producer Morton Schindel and Weston Woods Studios made Robert McCloskey, an 18-minute documentary that is sometimes screened in art schools. It shows McCloskey sitting in Boston Public Garden intercut with pages from his sketchbook drawings for Make Way for Ducklings, while the illustrator recounts experiences that influenced his work and discusses the relationship of craftsmanship to inspiration.

Public art

  • Sculpture (completed 1935), Hamilton, Ohio Municipal Building — McCloskey created models for relief bias.
  • Murals (1939), including six formerly housed in the Sloan Building (E52) on the MIT campus — McCloskey assisted Francis Scott Bradford depicting Beacon Hill socialites in large murals commissioned by the Lever Brothers of Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Totem Pole, now housed in the Hamilton, Ohio Municipal Building museum — McCloskey carved the totem pole while a counselor at Camp Campbell Gard where it stood for over 50 years

Derivative art

In Boston Public Garden a sculpture of a family of nine ducks, by the sculptor Nancy Schön, installed in 1987, commemorates McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings. A version was installed in Moscow in 1991. In Hamilton, Ohio, McCloskey's hometown, another sculpture by Schön, installed in 2002, depicts a boy and dog from McCloskey's first book, Lentil, published in 1940. McCloskey named the boy Lentil, but in a competition among schoolchildren the dog was given the name Harmony. In Boothbay Harbor, Maine, in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, another sculpture by Schön, dedicated in 2010 and known as Sal's Bear, depicts a baby bear and a nearby spilled pail of blueberries, based on the drawings in McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal.


As author and illustrator

As illustrator only

  • Yankee Doodle's Cousins (1941) written by Anne Malcolmson
  • Tree Toad: Adventures of the Kid Brother (1942) by Bob Davis, illus. McCloskey and Charles Dana Gibson
  • Young America's English Book One (1942) by Helen Fern Daringer
  • The Man Who Lost His Head (1942) by Claire Huchet Bishop; paperback reissue (1970)
  • Trigger John's Son (1949) by Tom Robinson
  • Journey Cake, Ho (1953) by Ruth Sawyer, a Caldecott Honor Book
  • Junket: The Dog Who Liked Everything "Just So" (1955) by Anne H. White
  • Henry Reed, Inc. (1958), by Keith Robertson
  • Henry Reed's Journey (1963), by Robertson
  • Henry Reed's Babysitting Service (1966), by Robertson
  • Henry Reed's Big Show (1970), by Robertson
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