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.”