Home Sweet Home: A Review of ‘Make Way for Ducklings’

“……‘home’ must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars.”L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

Reading Level:

Grades K-1 [according to common core]

3.1 [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which  a student reads on grade could read the book independently]

Review and Comments:

Finding the perfect home is a challenging goal for Mr. and Mrs. Mallard.  They are looking for the ideal place to raise a family – a quiet neighborhood, close to the waterfront and places of interest, and a safe location. Their Boston area search continues until they settle on a cozy little island in the middle of a pond in the Public Garden.  Everything is going well until Mrs. Mallard determines the area is too dangerous so they extend their search. Of course being mallards they explore the area that encompasses the Charles River. Eventually they find a splendid location on a small quiet island on the river. They settle in and then spend some time touring the surrounding area. Along the way they meet a policeman named Michael who feeds them peanuts. Michael becomes their friend and a favorite stop on their daily stroll.

After Mrs. Mallard lays eight eggs she doesn’t go on her walks anymore but stays close to the nest.  Then the precious eggs hatch and the parents cannot be prouder of Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.  Shortly after the hatching Mr. Mallard leaves on a scouting trip to see what the rest of the Charles River has to offer.  Mr. and Mrs. Mallard arrange to meet in the Public Garden in one week.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Mallard teaches her ducklings to swim, walk in a straight line, and very importantly to stay away from vehicles with wheels!

After a week, Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings begin their parade to the Public Garden. When they reach the highway they instantly realize the traffic is a dangerous barrier. Michael, the policeman, comes to their rescue.  He stops the traffic, and the ducks carefully waddle across the street.  As they continue through town, Michael calls for back up. By the time the family gets to the next street other policemen are already controlling the traffic which allows the mallards to reach the Public Garden safely.  The family happily reunites and agrees that the little island in the garden truly is the perfect place for the family to live.

Robert McCloskey’s classic story shows a tender moment in the life of a mallard family and the care of those around them. Family is a major theme in this story.  Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are devoted parents working together as partners and striving to make a safe and wonderful home for their ducklings.  Their example is a significant and uplifting message for any young reader. The brown and white illustrations display a nostalgic look at life during a simpler era. The illustrations of Michael show the old style policeman. His role is quite different compared to today’s police force although the mission of protection and service is unchanged. The reader may notice that only policemen are shown in the illustrations, which was the norm for that time period.  My four year old granddaughter recently informed me, “They are not policemen, Grandma. They are police officers.”  Young readers are observers and will notice many interesting details.

Make Way for Ducklings won the Caldecott Medal in 1942.

More books written by McCloskey: (Click on the pictures for our affiliate link)

Lentil (1940) 

Homer Price (1943)

Blueberries for Sal (1948), a Caldecott runner-up (Check out our review for this book here.)

Centerburg Tales: More Adventures of Homer Price (1951); also issued as More Homer Price

One Morning in Maine (1952), a Caldecott runner-up

Time of Wonder (1957), Caldecott Medal winner

Burt Dow, Deep-water Man (1963)

Possible Concerns:

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion:

Write a Story

  • Choose one of the ducklings and write the name of the duckling as the title of your story.
  • Draw a picture of the duckling. [A feather could be added to the duckling.]
  • Write or dictate a short story about the chosen duckling.

Shape Poem

Read nonfiction book about the life cycle of a duck entitled Hello, Duck! By Lada Kratky.

This site provides great follow up activities for a beginning reader.

Catholic Resources:

 Saint Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of the police.  He isn’t a saint in the traditional sense but is invoked for protection, especially from lethal enemies.

CCC 2207    The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.


CCC 2223    Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self–denial, sound judgment, and self–mastery—the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

CCC 2228    Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.


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