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Robert McCloskey dies at 88

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A lot has changed since Robert McCloskey wrote his popular children’s book, Blueberries for Sal. Little Sal’s a lawyer now, few mothers worry about canning enough blueberries to last through the winter, and the rocky coast of Maine is dotted now with McDonald’s restaurants selling lobster sandwiches, but the old Maine way of life will forever be preserved in McCloskey’s books.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice tribute to him, emphasizing the realistic approach to life and children that his books take in contrast to a lot of the fluff out there today that passes for children’s literature. Whether the children are ducks or humans, they always have a flare for indpendence in the McCloskey books.

In addition to brave little Sal who is unfazed by bears, there’s Homer Price, the boy who meets all challenges with equanimity, and Lentil who blithely ignores all criticism of his musical abilities and eventually saves the day with his harmonica playing. There’s a lot to be said for books that foster a sense of independence in kids, especially when they tell a good story in the process. We could use a lot more of those sorts of stories today.

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