15 October 2007

Robert McCloskey. Time of Wonder.1957

Robert McCloskey. TIME OF WONDER. The Viking Press, New York, 1957.

Current Selling Prices
$350-$500 /£170-£240

Author and illustrator Robert McCloskey (1915 - 2003) grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, a small town which formed the basis of his books 'Lentil '(1940) and'Homer Price' (1943), but it was New England that provided the backdrop for his most beloved children's books. These were 'Make Way for Ducklings' (1941), about a family of ducks who make their home in the Boston Public Garden, and 'Time of Wonder' (1957), set in the coastal islands of Maine, both won the Caldecott Medal. He was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in April 2000.

'Make Way for Ducklings' is his big book - it has sold well over two million copies. There is a bronze statue in the Boston Public Garden of the mother duck and her eight ducklings. The book is also the official children's book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and there is an annual parade of children in Boston to honour the book.

In 1991 -- in an act symbolic of the end of the 40-year Cold War -- Barbara Bush presented a replica of the US statue (Mother duck and 8 ducklings) to Raisa Gorbachev, who had admired the story and the Boston sculptures. The plaque in Moscow's Novedevichy park reads: "This sculpture was given in love and friendship to the children of the Soviet Union on behalf of the children of the United States." Bless. Mrs. Gorbachev, who died in 1999, is buried in a cemetery near the park. Later the statues were stolen (a fairly typical Russian mafia caper - steal anything that is nailed down) and Mrs. Mallard and three of her duckling were replaced in ceremonies including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and the sculptor Nancy Schon.[ W/Q ** ]

'A Time of Wonder' is probably his most attractive book. A small thin quarto Illustrated throughout in colour. A sort of American Arthur Ransome adventure, but aimed at 4 to 8 year olds. The book grew directly our of the experiences of his family at their island home in Penobscot Bay Maine. The tale of two girls on vacation in Maine - written in a slightly dreamy prose poem style, a story full of happiness and excitement, it captures the daily drama of the change of weather, from sun to fog to a dramatic hurricane. It is usually found with the Caldecott medal on the front of the wrapper but to be totally correct it shouldn't have it as the medal was awarded in 1958. It is listed on a site Good Media Good Kids Project as having all the virtues of a harmless and uplifting childrens book, ticking all the right boxes without being bland or mawkish. Many current children's books (like, say, 'Junk' by Melvin Burgess) would fail to pass. Here is the summary:-

No Violence
No Cruelty
No Rudeness
The religion/spirituality in the story is Judeo-Christian and respect for the religion is shown .
No Stereotypes

Key Virtues
Ecological Citizenship/Preserving nature

VALUE? There are 3 copies of RM's 1948 classic 'Blueberries for Sal' at $2000+ over at ABE. There are several copies of his first book 'Lentil' and 'Make Way For Ducklings' at over $1000. You can find a decent jacketed first of 'Time of Wonder' for less than $500 although one might pay over that for a fine copy. Children's books of this period are hard to find in great shape. Kind of book that might show up in the collection of someone now pushing 60 who spent their summer hols in Maine.

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