A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
JUNE 7:

  • Happy birthday Nikki Giovanni (Rosa) and Louise Erdrich (The Birchbark House).
  • It’s the birth date of Patricia Lynch (1891–1972), Tales of Irish Enchantment, John Goodall (1908–1996), Creepy Castle, and Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), Bronzeville Boys and Girls.
  • In 1982 Priscilla Presley opens Graceland to the public. Read Elvis Presley by Wilborn Hampton, Ten Little Elvi by Laura J. Henson and Duffy Grooms, illustrated by Dean Gorissen, and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.
  • Other books to read for National Chocolate Ice Cream Day are Ice Cream: Including Great Moments in Ice Cream History by Jules Older, illustrated by Lyn Severance and Ice Cream: The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons.

“I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream,” goes the old ditty, and today marks National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. What a wonderful idea—two of the world’s most popular foods, chocolate and ice cream, celebrated together. For me, chocolate ice cream in June conjures up wonderful summer days, the ocean, sea gulls wailing, walks on the beach, clamming. In short, it brings to mind the plot of Robert McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine.

In the 1940s McCloskey married Margaret Durand, the daughter of storyteller and author Ruth Sawyer. In 1946 after their daughter Sally was born, the three of them moved from New York to an island on the Maine coast. Picture books of the modern era often lack a sense of place, but Robert McCloskey’s classic picture books of the late forties and early fifties are firmly grounded in details of the Maine coast and life in a small Maine community. These titles include two Caldecott Honor books, Blueberries for Sal (1948) and One Morning in Maine (1952), and the Caldecott Medal winner Time of Wonder, which made McCloskey the first artist to win the Medal twice.

In an interview, McCloskey once said that he always had one foot planted firmly midair—and the other on a banana peel. But rather than creating an absurdist or fantasy world as such a comment suggests, his Maine books are firmly grounded in reality. One Morning in Maine is the most personal picture book I know that has remained in print for almost sixty years. In it, Sal discovers that she has a loose tooth. She’s afraid she won’t be able to sail to Buck’s Harbor with her father as planned. But her mother talks to her and then sends Sal to help her father dig clams. Sal tells everyone she meets about her loose tooth—the fish hawk, the loon, and the seal. As she helps her father, she prattles on about her tooth, only to discover that it is missing and has fallen in the mud. They find a gull feather for her to make a wish on, and Robert, Sal, and baby sister Jane head out on the boat while their mother makes clam chowder. At the local store, Sal’s wish comes true—she gets a chocolate ice cream cone. And in the final line of the book the three head off for “CLAM CHOWDER FOR LUNCH!”

McCloskey renders this slice-of-life picture book so realistically that you can almost hear the gulls crying! Readers have been invited into a day of the McCloskey family’s life, one that is both special and very normal.

One Morning in Maine shows the details and beauty of the Maine coast, but it was also obviously created by a proud father. For many years now, the real Sal and Jane have been the guardians of their father’s work, protecting it from commercialization and exploit. I’ve always been grateful to them for their defense of these books, because the pressures on those who hold estate rights can be quite intense. Readers grew to love the children Sal and Jane in books. Now they have grown up to become women whom we can still admire. Let’s all raise an ice cream cone today—one chocolate and one vanilla—in their honor!

Here’s a page from One Morning in Maine:

“Daddy! I have a loose tooth!” she shouted. “And when it drops out I’m going to put it under my pillow and wish a wish. You can even see it wiggle!”

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Originally posted June 7, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Caldecott, Geography, Nature, Seasons, Summer
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for One Morning in Maine
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COMMENTS

  1. Sarah says:

    The best book for capturing the magic of Maine! This is my top choice gift for nieces and nephews when they are ready for longer bedtime stories.

    Thanks, Anita, for featuring another classic and personal fave :)

  2. One Morning in Maine is a picture book that comes very close to perfection.

    Together with Make Way for Ducklings it makes a stellar duo that you MUST have in your home library.

    Before I decided to test it as a read aloud, I was wondering whether a half a century old picture book would be able to move my little twins. Alas I never read it as a kid, so I had no inkling of how it would work in the 21st century.

    “One Morning in Maine sounded too dated, too local and possibly a product of times that have long passed us.
    Yet, I was completely wrong – this is a timeless book – and so it is as modern as they get. This is a story about humanity and childhood. This book will never get dated.” (from my review of the book).

    The morning begins and all options are open. One Morning in Maine is a story that simply unrolls before our eyes – effortlessly.

    Enjoy innocence in its purest form.

    Today innocence is no longer celebrated, yet is there really anything more charming and beautiful in life?

    The best of the best.

    Read Aloud Dad

  3. G.Perry says:

    I remember when I first found Make Way for Ducklings. I thought it was treasure out of time. And then I started looking for all his work. There’s a serenity and kindness much needed and much missing in our world today,. Something provided by Robert McCloskey’s work. It reminds me to ask myself the philosophical question “Remember when the world was peaceful?”

    I was in the New Hampshire area once and heard that McCloskey was appearing up north for a book signing. I really wanted to meet him, but I couldn’t get there in time. I think it may have been one of his last public appearances. I called the location the day he appeared to asked about the turnout, and explained how I had wanted to come but couldn’t, and the lady asked me if I’d like for him to sign a copy of Make Way for Ducklings for me. Whoa! You bet I would.

    That was in 1991, the 50th anniversary of the book. I have that signed book behind me right now, on the book shelf.

    I simply can’t imagine a world without Robert McCloskey. All his books should be owned by every family. They should be owned for a number of reasons. One such reason is to remind us to slow down, breath deep, be still. Be kind.

  4. suzi w. says:

    The daughter of Ruth Sawyer marries Robert McCloskey? Wow. That is truly awesome. And had I known this was another Sal book, I would have read it already. Thank you for going to a picture book today, for surely I can find a spare moment to pull this off the shelf tonight when I’m on desk.

    In 2005 or 06, I did a contest of Mother/Daughter themed books with a quiz show at the end of summer. Blueberries for Sal was one of the picture books I had in my set. Note to librarians/teachers that wish to swipe this idea: make sure the questions are multiple choice and EASY. Fortunately, I had a small turn out and had gotten prizes for all participants. I can’t remember if I had additional prizes for winners. I should have done a write-up.

    Anyways, I’ve rambled…I will most certainly pick this book up tonight, if not this afternoon, at work.

  5. Anita says:

    Thanks everyone for your great comments. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with McCloskey in 1991, as I was then Editor of Horn Book at that point. Such a gentle and lovely man — what you might expect from the books. I interviewed him for radio and that time with him remains one of my best memories.

  6. Jude says:

    One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal are two of my favorite books from my childhood, and I shared them both with my two children when they were small. And when the day comes, I’ll be reading them to my grandchildren.

  7. Tobin says:

    Anita, you’re SO LUCKY to have gotten to meet him! His Homer Price books are, I think, some of the finest examples of true Americana. (Is anyone writing like that now?)

    mta

  8. Tobin says:

    Incidentally, there was a great feature — I thought in DOWN EAST mag some years ago — that spoke to your point about the books “always being firmly grounded in reality.” It showed photos of the places in the Sal books side by side with the illustrations, and it was very fun to see how exact they were, and how little had changed. I now can’t locate that article, and it appears that Condon’s Garage has now closed:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0621/p20s01-ussc.html?page=3

    I love the detail that kids used to go in with the McCloskey book and ask the garage mechanics for their signatures!

    Sorry I can’t find the photos of the town themselves …

    mta

  9. Anita says:

    Tobin: Thanks for the article link. Fortunately, I knew how lucky I was to spend time with him while it was happening, so I savored every moment. He was a shy man but once he started to talk about his books and art quite passionate.

  10. I don’t think I could pick a favorite McCloskey book, each one is perfect in its own way. Chenille bedspreads, sputtering outboard motors and ice cream cones- mornings in Maine don’t get better than this. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. Carol Sibley says:

    Thanks so much for highlighting this wonderful storyteller and illustrator. I had the great pleasure of hearing Robert McCloskey in a conversation with Ethel Heins at Simmons College ijn 1986. It was immediately apparent what a born storyteller he was. We could have listened to him for hours. He even autographed some books that day, so I have a few of his signed books in my personal collection.

  12. Tahleen says:

    I didn’t think I had read this one or had it read to me when I was little, but reading your description I realized I remember it! It’s like a deja vu–especially when I think of the ice cream. I just get a feeling of contentment. Thanks Anita!

    Tahleen

  13. Last night I received a call from my 28-year-old son letting me know he will attend Brooklyn Law School in the fall. He is an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and the Marines will be paying his way. Today I see your entry about One Morning In Maine, which I read to him, along with the other McCloskey books, time and again. We lived a middle-class life in the DC suburbs, and I wanted him to experience the feel of a summer on the Maine coast. Reading your entry today brings back those days. Along with his call, it affirms for me all I tried to do to introduce that little guy to books and to broaden his imaginative life.

  14. Maureen Milton says:

    This was a favorite with my own children when they were small and, now, as a children’s librarian, I find it delights my students when I read it in conjunction with other tooth books (Beeler’s “Throw Your Tooth on the Roof,” Munsch’s “Andrews Loose Tooth” & the newer “April and Esme Tooth Fairies” by Bob Graham, even Collard Sneed’s non-fiction “Teeth”) to celebrate the thrill of that wiggly tooth coming out at last!

  15. Anita says:

    Maureen: Thanks for extending the theme — great choices.

  16. I have recently become reacquainted with Robert McCloskey’s titles by participating in LibLaura5′s Caldecott Challenge. So far turning the pages of Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal is like stepping back in time but there is something almost tangible about McCloskey’s writing and illustrations; as others noted a timeless quality he was able to capture where you feel transported into his stories. I can hardly wait to read the others. I am going to start buying my own copies so I can experience the joy of reading his books whenever I want to. Thanks so much for this post today and every day, Anita. Plus I love Gail Gibbons’s books too; Ice Cream: The Full Scoop is great.

  17. Pat H. says:

    This book has such a special place in my heart! I read this book to my children every time they lost a tooth.

  18. GM Hakim says:

    Such beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story. Maine truly is a special place, and McCloskey’s book does it a whole world of justice. Bravo. This deserves a place on every bookshelf.

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