Monday, September 12, 2011

Robert McCloskey

Just finished reading ROBERT McCLOSKEY: A PRIVATE LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES, by his younger daughter Jane. It’s an engaging read about the family, their pleasures, troubles and travels. The illustrations are not only from his books, but also his watercolors and paintings of family members and scenes of the various places they lived. Jane and her older sister, Sally (of Blueberries for Sal), spent childhood time on their Maine island, in New York, Mexico and at a private school in Switzerland.

I do wish Jane had written more about her father’s writing process – for example, how long did he work on some of the books? However, she points out he was a very “private and shy man,” and much of her “understanding” came from “detective work, watching him and thinking about him and what he said and didn’t say.”

Miscellaneous facts from the book:

1. The children called him Bob. He did not like to be called Dad.
2. McCloskey suffered with depression, had a nervous breakdown and spent time in a sanitarium.
3. There was a real Burt Dow and his tombstone reads: Burt Dow, Deep Water Man.
4. McCloskey worked a long time on puppets for a TV show, but they were never used.
5. There was a Robert J. McCloskey (State Department – Intelligence) who occasionally received fan mail for the author. The book has photocopies of a humorous exchange about this.
6. And finally: when people approached him saying they had a great idea for a children’s book they wanted to write, his reply was, “Don’t talk about it. Do it.”

Great advice.


  1. Interesting! I'll always have a soft spot for Blueberries for Sal- my daughter's favorite book for awhile. I remember one of the first time I went out and left her with a friend, I came home and my friend said (looking exhausted) "we read Blueberries for Sal six times."

  2. I love his advice. I think I'll follow it all day.

  3. CL and J.A.
    Thanks for the comments. I guess if I had to choose a McCloskey favorite it would be Time of Wonder. I know it's a little long for the kids these days, but the writing is so beautiful and for anyone who loves Maine, it's got everything - including a hurricane like the one we lived through a few weeks ago when we were there.