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Robert McCloskey: Simple tales embraced by generations

By NANCY CHURNIN / The Dallas Morning News

Robert McCloskey was not known for tongue-twisting rhymes, like Dr. Seuss.
Or for stuffed animals that come to life, like A.A. Milne. But Mr.
McCloskey, who died Monday at age 88 in Maine, was beloved for his affirming
tales of parental love such as Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for
Sal and the gentle humor of Homer Price, the story of a boy who gets the
doughnut maker going and doesn't know how to make it stop.

"I liked him enormously," said Maurice Sendak, the much- honored author of
Where the Wild Things Are. "I looked up to him. He is part of the great
picture of picture books in America. He's up there with the top guys.

"He was completely modest, genuine and unpretentious about his talent. His
books are simple, true and beautiful. You can return to them forever and you
should. We don't make books like that anymore. We don't make people like
that anymore."

Small wonder then, that after more than a half century, readers are still
asking for his books.

Judy Chaiken - owner of A Likely Story, a children's bookstore in Plano -
recently sold a few to a customer who was looking for a gift for newborn

"Where else do you find a book that my mother read to me and I read to my
children and that are now being read to my grandchildren?" asked Ms.
Chaiken. "They're comfort food. They're the kind of books you want to sit
and savor with your child."

Mr. McCloskey, the two-time winner of the Caldecott Medal, was born in 1914
in Hamilton, Ohio, and spent much of his adult life in Maine with his wife,
Margaret Durand, and daughters Jane and Sarah, better known as Sally (the
inspiration for Blueberries for Sal).

He was not prolific. He wrote and illustrated only eight books in addition
to illustrating 10 by other authors. And he was a stickler for detail. In
preparation for Make Way for Ducklings - the story of a determined mother
duck who leads her brood of Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and
Quack to the Public Garden in Boston - he bought live ducks that stayed in
the studio with him, quacking as he worked.

For Mr. Sendak, it's Mr. McCloskey's love of children and nature, unmarred
by sentimentality, that makes his work endure.

"There are no shadows in his books," said Mr. Sendak with a trace of wonder.
"My books are filled with shadows. Sometimes I wish there was a little bit
of McCloskey in me - a place where the sun shines."

He is survived by his daughters and two grandchildren.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

Mary Ludwick, Librarian         K-5 Elementary
Owen Elementary, The Colony, Texas (near Dallas)  (school address) (home address)
Little known fact: "Don't Mess With Texas" is an
anti-litter campaign slogan.

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