Subscribe to The Horn Book

Bob McCloskey, Inventor

by Marc Simont

Should the recession get serious, a good inexpensive way for a tired man to find release from his tensions would be to go for a spin in Grampa Hercules’ Hide-a-Ride Machine.

Bob McCloskey’s talent for devising mechanical contraptions is topped only by his ability to turn out books that carry off the Caldecott Medal. I think there’s a great book in a collection of Robert McCloskey Inventions.

This flair of Bob’s for mechanical contraptions was very hard on his mother when, as a youngster, he came up with a machine for whipping cream. Being a generous boy, he didn’t spare the juice, so when this whirling monster came in contact with the cream, it splattered a milky-way pattern around all four kitchen walls.

Time of Wonder is a poetic, pictorial record of his island home in Maine. But what the pictures in the book don’t show is the staggering amount of equipment that it takes to turn a house on an island into a comfortable home. Bob is caretaker and up-keeper of electric generators, water pumps, winches, boat engines, etc., but the amazing thing is that he still has enough humor left to indulge in such refinements as hi-fi sets (which require special generators) and electrically run roasting spits.

In 1947 I was able to benefit from Bob’s mechanical wizardry. I had just bought a car — a 1927 Pontiac — which had a good engine, I was told, and lots of dignity, which I could see. My wife and I borrowed the McCloskeys’ car and went to pick it up. On the way back I drove the McCloskeys’ car while my wife brought along the antique (as head of the family I can’t afford to take chances). We proudly showed it off to the McCloskeys but when it was time to leave, it wouldn’t start. I raised the hood and looked wise; Bob turned the crank a few times and listened. He removed a few bolts and a section of the fly-wheel housing came out. Then he reached in and pulled out the remains of a mouse nest. All the car needed (for him who could tell) was a little old-fashioned spring cleaning.

The motor started and we were on our way.

From the August 1958 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind