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A new life of Robert McCloskey: Make way for ducklings, blueberries, and Sal!

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Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures (Seapoint Books) by Jane McCloskey is a gorgeously designed, enthralling new book. It’s a fitting tribute to McCloskey (1914-2003), author of some of the most beautiful and comforting children’s books ever, including Make Way For Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. These are kid classics, also enjoyed by adults since they were first published over a half-century ago; their acute depictions of  children’s mischievousness (and realistic animal behavior) are eternally contemporary.

Sal is the sister of the book’s author, Jane McCloskey; Jane writes about her father with a brisk fondness and many vivid descriptions of her family’s life not only in Maine, but in New York and Mexico as well. She hints at family troubles (“Sal’s childhood was less happy than mine, while her adulthood has been happier and more successful”).

Lovely watercolors, crisp pencil drawings, oils and pastels whose landscape realism flirts with both the abstract and the cartoon – McCloskey’s best art, displayed in this volume, was all-embracing, welcoming. It charms you without any trace of sentimentality or fawning favor.

Reading the book is like taking a dip in Maine summer water: Bracing, invigorating, bringing all your sense alive. Put aside The Hunger Games for a few blissful moments, and enjoy McCloskey’s nourishing games, detailed so vividly in Jane McCloskey’s Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures.

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