Make Way for Ducklings!

The library in my neighborhood will host its 27th annual Duckling Day parade this coming Saturday.  It is one part celebration of spring, one part homage to the work of Ohio-born picturebook author and illustrator Robert McCloskey, creator of Make Way for Ducklings (1941).  The history of the event here in Columbus is still a bit of mystery to me, though I know it was modeled after a similar parade in Boston that takes place on Mother’s Day and generates funds, through donations from the families who participate, for the public garden that is featured in the story.  I have a call into our local historical society to try to learn more about how the event came to us.  In the past, the parade has taken place around Easter, often in conjunction with the local egg hunt.  Perhaps as a result, I didn’t pay any attention to it when George and Rosa were kids. I’m not big into pairing publicly sponsored gatherings with religious holidays.  But last year, when Cora and I were still regulars at the library storytime and she was sturdy on her feet, I couldn’t help but get pulled into the event.  All her little pals would be there, her community.

 

Early this morning we found ourselves on the kitchen floor surrounded by yellow and orange construction paper, scissors, tape, and glue as we made her costume.  The papers were part of a kit we picked up at the library, all loaded into a brown paper bag that serves as the body of the costume.  Just like last year.  I completed that kit and Cora waddled her way around the library with hundreds of other kids, in a bag I decorated for her.  But this year, she had a big part in the production and is so eager to participate that I had to hide the costume on top of the microwave, on top of the refrigerator so she couldn’t destroy it before the big event.

A number of times in the past, Cora has sat and cut fringes on a piece of paper for a long time before she got up to do something else.  I’m talking 20-30 minutes or so which can be an eternity in toddler time. It’s work she enjoys and she got to it without any prompting when I took out the paper and scissors this morning.  I gave her long, fat strips of construction paper and let her cuts her fringes around them.  She loved working her way through the stack, talking excitedly the entire time.  When she was through with a piece, she gave it to me, I cut it in half, and alternated glueing yellow and orange strips to the brown paper bag.  I explained what I was doing to her and showed her pictures of her costume from last year. We didn’t create anything too original, but when I look at the rows or feathers, all cut to different shapes and sizes, I can’t help but smile.  I see Cora’s handiwork in each and every slit.

 

Of course, making a costume with a kit goes against much of what I write on this blog about not following a recipe when you make art with young children.  But, as I wrote about in November, when it’s your own kid’s hand turkey, things get complicated.*  In the case of the duckling parade, the custom kit seems to provide tight parameters out of which families devise many different variations.  Last year I was amazed by the collection of ducks I encountered, each with a set of differently shaped feathers. I look forward to observing this again this year and promise I will share some of what I find with you.

*(Note: This post was removed for publication review.) The library in my neighborhood will host its 27th annual Duckling Day parade this coming Saturday.  It is one part celebration of spring, one part homage to the work of Ohio-born picturebook author and illustrator Robert McCloskey, creator of Make Way for Ducklings (1941).  The history of the event here in Columbus is still a bit of mystery to me, though I know it was modeled after a similar parade in Boston that takes place on Mother’s Day and generates funds, through donations from the families who participate, for the public garden that is featured in the story.  I have a call into our local historical society to try to learn more about how the event came to us.  In the past, the parade has taken place around Easter, often in conjunction with the local egg hunt.  Perhaps as a result, I didn’t pay any attention to it when George and Rosa were kids. I’m not big into pairing publicly sponsored gatherings with religious holidays.  But last year, when Cora and I were still regulars at the library storytime and she was sturdy on her feet, I couldn’t help but get pulled into the event.  All her little pals would be there, her community.

IMG_0875

Early this morning we found ourselves on the kitchen floor surrounded by yellow and orange construction paper, scissors, tape, and glue as we made her costume.  The papers were part of a kit we picked up at the library, all loaded into a brown paper bag that serves as the body of the costume.  Just like last year.  I completed that kit and Cora waddled her way around the library with hundreds of other kids, in a bag I decorated for her.  But this year, she had a big part in the production and is so eager to participate that I had to hide the costume on top of the microwave, on top of the refrigerator so she couldn’t destroy it before the big event.

A number of times in the past, Cora has sat and cut fringes on a piece of paper for a long time before she got up to do something else.  I’m talking 20-30 minutes or so which can be an eternity in toddler time. It’s work she enjoys and she got to it without any prompting when I took out the paper and scissors this morning.  I gave her long, fat strips of construction paper and let her cuts her fringes around them.  She loved working her way through the stack, talking excitedly the entire time.  When she was through with a piece, she gave it to me, I cut it in half, and alternated glueing yellow and orange strips to the brown paper bag.  I explained what I was doing to her and showed her pictures of her costume from last year. We didn’t create anything too original, but when I look at the rows or feathers, all cut to different shapes and sizes, I can’t help but smile.  I see Cora’s handiwork in each and every slit.

IMG_0882

Of course, making a costume with a kit goes against much of what I write on this blog about not following a recipe when you make art with young children.  But, as I wrote about in November, when it’s your own kid’s hand turkey, things get complicated.*  In the case of the duckling parade, the custom kit seems to provide tight parameters out of which families devise many different variations.  Last year I was amazed by the collection of ducks I encountered, each with a set of differently shaped feathers. I look forward to observing this again this year and promise I will share some of what I find with you.

*(Note: This post was removed for publication review.)

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4 thoughts on “Make Way for Ducklings!

  1. The idea of making the duckling from a kit does seem like a recipe but it can also be viewed as offering a series of limitations which stimulate the imagination to invent wonderful embellishments.
    This is a key principle in art education.
    Amy Brook Snider

  2. The finished result looks absolutely adorable! I love that she took the time to make the decorating. She was so excited! It’s wonderful to engage the kids into the construction itself.

  3. Pingback: Field Report from Duckling Day | Outside The lines

  4. Hi Jodi,
    How apropos! I am writing this while sitting in New York City’s Salmagundi Club for all things artful, where David is doing the Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera portion of a Freeman’s Appraisal Day. The very air reeks of painting – that lovely, odd scent of old – and not so old – oil paints. You and Cora would both love it here, with every inch of wall space filled with paintings, drawings and photographs. And my very favorite items: the artists’ palettes plus brushes used by J. Francis Murphy and George Inness.
    Love hearing about your and Cora’s activities; love you,
    Bonnie

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