Boston Duckling Walkby Angela (g+)
Since we moved from the Midwest out to the East Coast five years ago, my kids and I are now huge Robert McCloskey fans. We couldn't avoid falling in love with his beautifully illustrated books, they are simply part of the culture out here - so much so, that Make Way For Ducklings, written in 1941, is the official book of the Commonwealth.
We never tire of reading McCloskey's blueberry-picking-with-bears adventure (Blueberries for Sal) and the story of a young girl losing her first tooth in Maine (One Morning in Maine). But the story of a mother and father duck, making their way into Boston to find a place to raise a family, is not only timeless. It is remarkably close to our own struggle, and one that we see so often, especially in Cambridge.
In the book, Make Way for Ducklings, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard initially arrive in Boston's Public Garden. When it seems too dangerous a place to raise their family, they fly over to an island in the Charles River close to the Longfellow Bridge and the Hatch Shell (an outdoor concert venue, not named for the hatching ducklings - though kids might get the wrong impression).
After the ducklings hatch, Mrs. Mallard teaches them everything they need to know to be a duck while Mr. Mallard ventures out to explore the Charles. The family plans on meeting up at the Public Garden in a week. To meet her husband, Mrs. Mallard and her brood of 8 ducklings cross Storrow Drive (even back in 1941 they needed the help of a policeman), and march up Mt. Vernon Street to Charles Street, where they turn at the corner bookstore (now a fancy 7-Eleven), cross Beacon Street and settle in the Public Garden.
I have wanted to retrace the ducklings steps for a while now, but was always held back. For one, I imagined it to be difficult to navigate around MGH, Storrow Drive, and Beacon Hill with two young kids. I also didn't think my kids could handle that long of a walk. And, I figured that I needed some kind of map, tour guide, or program to follow. After a brief Internet search, I only came up with a walk suggested by a group called "walk Boston" (http://www.walkboston.org). This is a nice 1.5 mile walk, but it doesn't follow the story exactly (instead of coming up Mt. Vernon Street to Charles Street, like the ducklings did, this walk takes you straight up Beacon Street to the Public Garden, and back to MGH along Charles Street).
Despite my initial reservations, and armed with a copy of the book, we decided to use McCloskey's detailed illustrations to go map out our own version of a family Ducklings Walk in Boston. Instead of starting at the Public Garden and flying over Beacon Hill (as in the book), we chose to focus entirely on the ducklings, starting where they were born near MGH, and tracing their adventure to finally end our journey at the Public Garden (where there was an easy route back to Cambridge on the red line, Park Street stop if need arose).
It wasn't so hard to navigate around, thanks to the two footbridges that allowed us to cross safely over Storrow Drive (no steps, the walk would easily be done with a stroller). The kids handled the walk fine with the help of snack breaks (CVS near MGH and the 7-Eleven on Charles Street). They really got into taking pictures, studying McCloskey's illustrations and finding the objects they recognized: the Longfellow Bridge, the little island, the trees, roads, buildings, the windows on the Church of the Advent on Mt. Vernon Street, the steeple on the Charles Street Meeting House. They loved watching the real geese and ducks in the river.
It was interesting to see how things have changed: the trees are now much bigger, the Longfellow Bridge is under construction, several sailboats are moored at the duckling island, Storrow Drive is much bigger and busier, people and cars look different. Other things haven't changed: the towers on the Longfellow Bridge, the basic architecture of the buildings on Mt. Vernon Street, and the upside-down hearts on the iron fence at the Public Garden.
The route starts at Charles/MGH, T stop on the Red Line. Parking at MGH is expensive and difficult to find, so if you're driving in from the west, it would be worth parking at Alewife and riding the red line to the MGH stop. From the north, you could park in Kendall Square South Garage and ride the T, or walk over the Longfellow Bridge. Another option is also parking at the Boston Common Garage (underground), getting on the red line at Park Street and riding one stop over to MGH, or walking down Charles Street to MGH for a longer walk, but you could end back at the Common to get your car.
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|My husband made up a small booklet of pictures along on the walk. You can print this out for your child to match up with the book, or to carry along on the walk to see what they can find.|
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