Schindel, Morton (producer). Make Way for Ducklings…And More Robert McCloskey Stories. Weston Woods Productions (Scholastic), 2004. 62 minutes. $59.95. ISBN 0439696895.
Three classic children’s picture books by Robert McCloskey come to life in the animation studios of Weston Woods Productions with two additional extra films, Lentil and Burt Dow: Deep Water Man. In typical Weston Woods style, the books are gently animated, with some background music and atmospheric sounds. We hear the eggs cracking of Mrs. Mallard and the little chirps of her ducklings in Make Way for Ducklings; the “kaplink, kaplank, kaplunk” of Sal’s berries in her bucket in Blueberries for Sal; and the waves, loons, and wind in Time of Wonder. The reader, Ted Hoskins, offers variations in his voices for the various moods of these three stories. These short films stay true to the spirit of the original books: the colors and moods of a summer season spent on an island, and the brown and white line drawings of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in their home in Boston. Blueberries for Sal was lightly colored, however, which was different from the book. Overall, the quality of the production was adequate (though not up to today’s digitized standards) and the films are well adapted to animation.
Leaving aside the importance of exposing young readers (and watchers) to classic picture books like these, this DVD could be a nice inclusion in a pre-school storytime or during a rainy day, indoor recess for Kindergarteners. Mrs. Mallard has eight ducklings and each is named with the suffix “—ack,” but each beginning letter is different: J, K, L, M, N, O, P, and Q. Whether reading this story aloud or after the video viewing, children could be invited to play a word game using this as a take-off point where a different suffix could be used with different letters of the alphabet in sequence.
These were some of the earliest books that were read aloud to me. As a very young child in Boston, I was a frequent visitor to the Public Gardens and rode the Swan Boats. It was a special connection when I realized that these were the same places Mr. and Mrs. Mallard visited! When I saw the Weston Woods production of this book, I was pleased with the way the book was brought to life on the screen: true to the gentle mood of the original, with a narration that reminded me of my dad’s voice.
Make Way for Ducklings was awarded the 1942 Caldecott Award; Time of Wonder was awarded the 1958 Caldecott Award; and a Caldecott Honor for Blueberries for Sal in 1949 (Wikipedia, 2012).
Classic Picture Books.
Classic watch-alikes might include other Weston Woods productions, such as Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Steig) or Strega Nona (dePaolo). Both are award-winning books and films.