Make Way for Overanalyzation

Exciting news: I’ve made an appointment in February to get a new tattoo done.  It is, of course, a book tattoo.  Specifically, it will be Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack from Make Way for Ducklings.  So, as you do, I was noodling around on the interwebs and looked at the afore-linked Wikipedia page for the book.

And can I just say, people are nuts.  And by people, I mean academic critics.

Did you know that this book “was criticised for having a loose plot, however, as well as poor characterization”?

Now, don’t read this as me getting overly defensive of a beloved book from my childhood.  Truly, this is just astonishment, here.  Because the plot of the book is: the ducks need a safe home.  It’s hard for them to get there.  But a police officer helps.  And then all the ducks are happy!

This is not good enough for critics, it seems.   They note “that the ‘loosely plotted’ story gives no true explanation for why Mr. Mallard leaves the island in the Charles River or why the Mallards did not simply stay on the lagoon island in the first place and avoid the bicyclists on the shore.”  They also: “find the characterization lacking, that is, the Mallards represent ‘rather stereotypically concerned parents,’ often showing the same facial expressions and rarely showing expressiveness.”  (As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.)

That’s right, folks.  DUCKS rarely show expressiveness.  What lacking characterization!  They should get some eyebrows or something, and make our lives a bit easier.

Now, I know mocking academic critics is like shooting ducks in a barrel, but I just have to point out this quote before I go.

“Contrary to other books of the time, such as What Girls Can Be which stereotyped women as submissive, limited, and weak, McCloskey presented Mrs. Mallard as an ‘independent and nonsubmissive female character. When Mr. Mallard leaves on questionable purpose, Mrs. Mallard is charged with raising their ducklings alone. McCloskey portrays Mrs. Mallard as a capable woman who does not need the support of a male character. This strong portrayal has led some critics to label the book as ‘pre-feminist.'”

And now I know why the book has always been so dear to my heart!


4 comments so far

  1. Jessica on

    Hilarious! This is why I became a bookseller, rather than an academic. Those poor people, scowling at the ducks as they note their lack of expressions…

    As usual, I’m jealous of your tattoos, both idea and initiative. I’ve yet to find the design I could be happy with, but I suspect it’s because I’m imagining ONE great book tattoo, rather than the plethora which you rock yourself. Can’t wait to see it next time we meet up!

  2. Fortune on

    This post made me laugh. What are those ducks thinking of, with their lack of eyebrows!? haha

    I saw Mo Willems speak once and he talked about how so many people were giving him different ways of analyzing Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Some told him that it was good because it teaches kids to follow directions, while others said it was good because it allows them to make their own decisions.

    At some point, people need to learn to *enjoy* children’s books.

  3. Laurie Halse Anderson on

    That book is also a favorite of Nanna’s. I can’t wait until she sees the new ink!

  4. Amy on


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