What has eighteen legs, shines in the sun, and loves children? A set of eight bronze duckling statues with their mother, that's what! They are made for hugging, climbing on, and "feeding." They were created by the sculptor Nancy Schön (pronounced "shern"). She based them on the ducklings in the famous children's book Make Way for Ducklings.
The ducklings in the book hatched from the drawing pencil of author Robert McCloskey back in 1941. In the story, the ducklings followed their proud mother around the Public Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. They learned to "walk in a line, to come when they were called, and to keep a safe distance from bikes and scooters and other things with wheels."
But the duckling statues started in a very different way almost fifty years later.
Ms. Schön, who had been making sculptures of people for years, noticed that children love to play with animal statues. At the same time, the six-year-old twin boys of an English friend of hers visited the Public Garden. They had read Make Way for Ducklings, and they were puzzled. "Mummy, where are the ducks?" they asked.
Ms. Schön's friend suggested that she bring the famous little birds to life. Mr. McCloskey himself was delighted with the idea. He encouraged the sculptor to start by copying his own drawings.
"Just to be different. I chose eight of the poses of the ducks that I liked best," explains Ms. Schön. She then lined them up behind
Mrs. Mallard. She wanted to remind people how the ducklings in the book waddled from the Charles River, across busy Beacon Street, and right into the Public Garden.
Deciding how big the ducks should be was an important question. Mr. McCloskey himself came to the art studio to help. To get a better look, they dragged the clay models outside on a snowy February day. Just then a group of children at the preschool next door came out and stopped short in surprise.
Ms. Schön laughs as she remembers. "The children came running and screaming and started to pat and hug them. It was so
exciting!" There was no doubt now—the ducklings were perfect. The bronze statues were ready to be made.
In October 1987, two large and sixteen small webbed feet lined up and came to stay in the Boston Public Garden. Mrs. Mallard stands more than three feet tall, and her children—"Jack, then Kack, and then Lack, followed by Mack and Nack and Ouack and Pack and Quack"—trail proudly behind her, waddling on old rounded Boston cobblestones. Their bright eyes sparkle, inviting children of all ages to touch, hug, and play with them, just as Ms. Schön wanted.