Make Way for Ducklings
The Viking Press, 1941
Possibly one of the best books EVER for kids. A timeless classic, I remember it from my youth, even if One Morning in Maine was the one I always took everywhere with me. We spent a good deal of time in Maine when I was little (both my sisters were born there), and McCloskey's books have always made me get that New England feeling in my bones. Of course, my son is an animal nut, and the animal that floats to the top for him every time is the duck. If ducks have a quintessential kids' book, this is it for sure.
I won't get into the history of Make Way here, as it is a bountiful and lively one (and has been written about everywhere), but you can check out the Wiki entry to get more details. McCloskey also did a great interview with Horn Book where he spills on the making of, including how he famously lived with ducks in his studio for a while so he could draw them just right. That said, this Caldecott Medal winner begins simply enough...
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live. But every time Mr. Mallard saw what looked like a nice place, Mrs. Mallard said it was no good. There were sure to be foxes in the woods or turtles in the water, and she was not going to raise a family where there might be foxes or turtles. So they flew on and on.
Sure, Mrs. Mallard is picky, but she is a strong and independent Momma who ultimately leads her family to the Public Garden in Boston. The rest of the Mallard's story follows them finding the perfect nesting spot, raising the kids and finally Momma taking her young ones (sans Dad) on a long and harrowing walk through Downtown Boston that literally has people stopping in their tracks. The duck illustrations are utterly flawless -- full of personality, humor and comic realism. Ten thumbs and ten toes definately WAY up!
One Morning in Maine
Burt Dow Deep-Water Man
The Man Who Lost His Head
Journey Cake, Ho!