Did you ever have story hour with your elementary school librarian? Sitting pretzel-style on the ground and listening to the magic of a story unfold? It was one of my favorite times during the school week as a child. I was introduced to many of the "greats" of children's literature in this way, but very few are as vivid in memory as Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. While it was set in Maine, the experiences of the characters in the book are common to many. The joys of summer and berry picking at my home always ended up with more berries in the belly than the bucket. Hiking the mountains of Utah, my parents had warned me about the dangers of mother bears being separated from the children. So when the very thing my parents had warned me about happened to Sal, the worry was genuine. What would she do? What would the bear do? I could hardly wait for the librarian to turn the page.

The author himself started young, drawing pictures for the school newspaper. He received a scholarship to attend formal art education in Boston at a young age, and it seems that his style was always meant to charm children and adults alike.  

A book that ignites genuine emotions is always memorable, and Robert McCloskey is a master of it. More recently, I encountered Time of Wonder, a book that takes readers through everyday magical experiences, the things each day that should cause us to stop in awe and wonder, yet how often it all is overlooked.

Robert McCloskey's magic comes from his writing from life. He grew up in Ohio but went to art school on the east coast. When he married, his wife and two daughters became the inspiration for many of his stories, as did the little island off the coast of Maine where they settled during the summers. His stories feature a few wild animals, a few wild humans, and lots of charming illustrations. 

Robert McCloskey majorly influenced children's literature of the 20th century through his family-oriented stories and marvelous adventures. While Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal and Time of Wonder may be the most recognizable of his titles, the six other children's books that he wrote and illustrated are just as charming and enjoyable. Four of his nine books were Caldecott winners or honorable mentions. 

Another favorite, but perhaps lesser known, is about a old and determined fisherman off the coast of Maine. Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man couldn't be more charming, and reminds me of my hard-working grandfather that never could quite settle into retirement. Age makes no difference for an adventure in this charming story.

Robert McCloskey wrote about what he saw and the people he knew, from his own daughters to the friendly faces in the places he called home. We hope that you'll want to bring home a few of these classics or perhaps add to your collection some of his lesser known stories. To browse all of the available Robert McCloskey books see the Robert McCloskey Collection.


July 24, 2018 — Chelsey Newbould

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