Five things you didn’t know about “Make Way for Ducklings”

Friends of the Public Garden Duckling Day


You’ve posed your kids for photos at the famous sculptures.  You’ve followed Mrs. Mallard through countless bedtimes and story hours.  You’ve shown your Boston pride by gifting the book at baby showers near and far…but here’s a few little-known facts that make a local favorite even more fun:

5. The author, Robert McCloskey, kept a family of ducklings in the bathtub of his apartment as he was writing the book. His tolerant roommate at the time, Marc Simont, also went on to become a famous children’s book writer.  And in case you were thinking that might be fun? McCloskey noted, ”Ducks start quacking at the break of day, very loudly and emphatically.”

4. The duckling sculptures that the Friends of the Public Garden had made and placed in the Garden in 1987 exist in just one other place – Moscow!  Raisa Gorbachev fell in love with the ducklings on a visit to Boston, and former First Lady Barbara Bush presented them to Raisa during a 1991 summit meeting.

3. Make Way for Ducklings is the official children’s book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts….and it’s best enjoyed with some chocolate chip cookies – the official cookie of Massachusetts!

2. The mystery of how to pronounce “Ouack” has never been solved: some prefer “Oh-ack” and others “Oooh-ack”!

1. Registration is now open for Duckling Day, a beloved Mother’s Day tradition for over 30 years!  It’s a morning of fun for the whole family organized by the Friends of the Public Garden.  Dress up the kids in their duckling best and enjoy entertainment and games on Boston Common – with a free mini-massage for Mom!  The famous Harvard Band will lead a parade to the Make Way for Ducklings statues.  The event comes courtesy of the non-profit Friends of the Public Garden.


10 Good reasons to support the Friends of the Public Garden

1. Membership begins at just $25.  Every dollar makes a difference.

2. It’s cheaper to maintain the grounds and sculptures than it is to repair and restore. Your support today ensures that beauty of these parks for generations to come.

3.  Fun and Games: Enjoy daily entertainment at the Brewer Fountain during your lunch break in the summers. brewer fountain entertainment

4. It’s your back yard! Whether you live in the city or outside of it, the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue mall are places where you are likely to spend some time. Supporting Friends will help make sure these spaces stay clean and beautiful so you can enjoy them whenever the mood strikes.

5. Preserve Boston’s trees! The Friends work hard to make sure Bostons’ trees are healthy and thriving, by identifying and preventing the spread of Dutch Elm Disease, regular pruning and removal of pests.

duck6. Make way for Ducklings and other sculptures like it. Installing this sculpture is certainly one of our cutest accomplishments.

7. Roses Roses Roses. Friends is responsible for maintaining the Public Garden’s rose gardens.

8. Keep those sculptures looking shiny and new. Since 2010, the Friends have worked to maintain

A dog dressed up on Duckling Day 2010
A dog dressed up on Duckling Day 2010

the 44 statues in the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. The cost of cleaning a sculpture is less than $1,000, while the cost of a full-scale restoration is upwards of $20,000. Your support now means we can keep costs lost while keeping these wonderful parks looking their best.

9. Duckling Day. The most adorable Mother’s Day Celebration there is.

10. Anyone who donates before May 1 will be entered into a drawing to win lunch for two at the Four Seasons!

Click here to join the Friends of the Public Garden.

Get Ready for September 29th

Make Way for Ducklings, photo from Nancy Shön’s website

The last Saturday of September is bringing with it a whirlwind of events in Boston! In addition to our highly anticipated 25th birthday celebration of Nancy Shön’s Make Way for Ducklings statue, will be host “Running with the Bridesmaids” at the Common and the Boston Natural Areas Network is having a tree planting in Dorchester. These three events will make for an exciting day in the Boston area!

Your day may begin at 10am donning your favorite (or least favorite) bridesmaid dress and a good pair of running shoes. You meet at the Boston Common as a team or a lone runner. A horn will blow and you will run, skip, hop or prance through the park. Not only will it be good fun, but the mile-long run can be your source of exercise for the day. Be aware, however, that all bridesmaids are required to register before the event in order to keep tabs on the number of inappropriately formal people planning to flood the Common that day.

Logo from

After you cross the Common in its entirety, you notice a scene of laughing children, festivities and party hats in the Public Garden. You continue your run to the Charles Street @ Beacon Street entrance of the Public Garden where FOPG will be throwing our duckling party from 10am-1pm. You decide to stop by, knock back some cold water and enjoy the music and magic our entertainers have to offer.

You’re so caught up in the celebration that you forget that you’re still wearing a bridesmaids dress. After a quick change at your desired location, you make your way to catch the red line to Dorchester. Though you’ve already had an eventful morning, the afternoon is just getting started and BNAN’s afternoon shift of the tree planting is on until 4pm! You help to celebrate National Public Lands Day by doing your part and planting trees in Dorchester’s beautiful Neponset Park. (Directions via public transportation can be found here).

By the time 4pm rolls around, you can certainly feel good about your involvement with the Boston community. And it may not be a stretch that it was the most fun you had all week!

Arjun of Dorchester volunteers with BNAN (photo from Facebook)

The Duckling Statue Celebrates its 25th Birthday

We’re having a big birthday bash this year for Nancy Shön’s Make Way for Ducklings statue! The event is completely free and will take place Saturday, September 29th from 10am – 1pm in the Public Garden. The party includes a variety of games and activities for families and people of all ages, including music, magic and juggling. Children may create their own birthday card to wish Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings a happy and healthy year. There will also be a special reading of the delightful story.

One fine day in 1985, Nancy Schön was called upon to create a bronze statue inspired by the Robert McCloskey classic, Make Way for Ducklings. In some ways the journey of this bronze tribute to the Mallard family mirrors the ducklings journey from the Charles River to the Public Garden in the book. Instead of facing the Charles River and busy streets, Shön spent two years working through several sponsorship obstacles  before her statue could call the Public Garden home. With a little work and a lot of determination the statue was finally installed on September 29th. It’s hard to believe it has already been 25 years since the sculpture found it’s way into our hearts. It seems like just yesterday Mrs. Mallard and her eight young ducklings swam across the Charles River to a busy highway where Officer Michael stopped the cars and let the ducks walk on through to Mt. Vernon Street.

25 years later, the ducks still reside in the Public Garden. If you’re lucky, you may be able to still catch them eating peanuts!

Nancy Schön’s Ducklings

The duckling statues of the Boston Public Garden, photo taken from Schön’s website

Now that Duckling Day is over and the beloved story that inspired it remains fresh in our minds it is worthwhile to think about the woman who so vividly brought McCloskey’s unforgettable illustrations to life by creating the bronze sculptures of Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, Quack and Mrs. Mallard that continue to delight children and adults alike in the Boston Public Garden. It is said that the ducklings have never lost their shine despite never being professionally polished because of the thousands of children who come to play on them each year.

The lazy hare awaits marathon runners in Copley Plaza, photo taken from Schön’s website

The master-mind behind the statues’ design is Nancy Schön, a graduate of Boston’s Museum School who is well-known for her approachable sculptures. Schön has always had an inclination for making sculptures that are not only visually stunning, but fashioned to be interactive so that even the smallest child can find joy in the bronze statues that grace many of Boston’s neighborhoods.

Eeyore and Pooh Bear outside Newton Free Library, photo taken from Schön’s website

Perhaps you have seen the tortoise and hare that greet Boston Marathon runners at the finish line in Copley Square or the friendly dragon on Nonquit Street that protects the people of Dorchester. There is even a sad donkey waiting for his friend Pooh Bear outside Newton Free Library. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve seen the only replica of the Public Garden’s duckling statues in the world located in Novodevichy Park, Moscow, installed as a gift from First Lady Laura Bush to First Lady Raisa Gorbachev during the signing of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in 1991.

Wherever the sculptures of Nancy Schön appear in your life they are sure to bring joy and fond memories of childhood tall tales.

These ducks are very far away from the Public Garden indeed!

Duckling Day Highlights

The weather could not have been more perfect yesterday for the annual Duckling Day Parade in honor of Mothers everywhere on Mother’s Day. Children dressed as their favorite ducklings enjoyed a magic show, facepainting, balloon animals and more as they waited for the parade to begin on the Boston Common. At noon when the Harvard Band began to play families lined up excitedly and began to retrace the steps of the characters from Robert McCloskey’s beloved Make Way for Ducklings. The day ended with a dramatic reading of the book by the Wheelock Family Theatre. As an added bonus Jane McCloskey was there to sign her book “Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures” as well as a few copies of her father’s work.

For more photos from the event click here!

Duckling Day Highlights:

1. Magician Peter O’Malley wowed the crowd on the Boston Common:

2. Rhondella Richardson of Channel 5 news wore a festive yellow dress to welcome families to the event:

3.The Wheelock Family theatre provided post-parade entertainment with a dramatic reading of
Make Way for Ducklings

4. Jane McCloskey signed copies of her book about her father as well as copies of Make Way for Ducklings.

Duckling Day’s Special Guest

We’re so excited to celebrate Duckling Day this Sunday with families from the Boston area and our special guest Jane McCloskey! Jane is the daughter of Robert McCloskley, author of the book that is the inspiration behind our Duckling Day Parade. The parade has become a wonderful Boston tradition that allows families to come together and have fun in the Boston Common and Public Garden.

One of our favorite parts of this Mother’s Day celebration is the dramatic reading of Make Way for Ducklings, by The Wheelock Family Theatre. But this year we’ve got even more in store! Jane has offered to sign copies of a book she wrote about her father, she will also have copies of her father’s beloved story on hand. Jane will be there all day to enjoy the Wheelock Family Theater Performance and all the fun activities inspired by Make Way For Ducklings.

If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late! You and your family can still register anytime leading up to the event, you can even register on the Common Sunday morning.  Check out our newly-designed website for more information on the event and register by clicking here. Don’t forget to get your duck costumes ready, too! It’s a tradition that children participating in the festivities dress like their favorite duckling from the storybook. Registration and entertainment (including face painting, magicians and balloon artists!) begin on the Common at 10:30 A.M. at the base of the Shaw Memorial, across Beacon Street from the State House. The parade will begin promptly at noon.

We can’t wait to see you at Duckling Day! And many thanks to Jane for sharing this special day with us!