As many booksellers across the country have noticed, Robert McCloskey’s Caldecott Honor-winning picture book, Blueberries for Sal (Viking, 1948), hasn’t been available to order for the past year. However, following several years of negotiation between Penguin and McCloskey’s estate, that situation is about to change.

According to Regina Hayes, president and publisher of Viking Children’s Books, the division first learned four years ago that McCloskey’s estate was interested in reclaiming rights to Blueberries for Sal and other titles. “As soon as we got notice that the estate was considering this, we began negotiating to keep those rights,” Hayes said. But coming to terms took time, and on April 3 of last year, Viking was informed by Penguin’s corporate counsel that they had to take the book off the market. “We essentially did not have the rights [to sell it], but neither did anyone else,” said Hayes.

“Hardly a day went by when reps didn’t say, ‘What’s happening with Blueberries?’,” Hayes recalled. Finally, last Thursday, an agreement was reached between Viking and the McCloskey estate for the entire body of McCloskey’s work. Blueberries for Sal will return to print, and will, along with the rest of McCloskey’s picture books (including Make Way for Ducklings, Homer Price and Lentil), remain at Penguin.

Robert McCloskey.
Photo: Elaine S. Martens.

Viking plans to print 50,000 copies of Blueberries, which should be available in late May or early June. Though the new book will share its ISBN with the previous edition, unlike its predecessor it will have a jacket and cream-colored stock, and Viking is using a first-edition copy of Blueberries to “re-originate” the book’s art. “The blue is more blue and less black,” said Hayes. “We’re going to try to replicate the original colors as closely as we can.”

Though Hayes did not divulge details of the negotiations, she said she is “delighted that it’s all resolved,” adding, “We know that Bob would be happy to know his books are remaining at Viking, because we published all of them here.” A statement from Robert McCloskey's daughters, Sally and Jane, echoed the sentiment: “Jane and I are thrilled that Blueberries for Sal will be available again. Blueberries for Sal is a book that is particularly beloved in Maine, and we have had many, many inquiries from booksellers who were unable to get stock. We are very pleased to have completed our negotiations with Viking, so that books will be available for summer this year.”

The ducklings in
Boston's Public Garden.
Photo: Flickr user
Jeremy Burgin.

Lost ‘Duckling’ Found

In other Robert McCloskey news, Bostonians breathed a collective sigh of relief earlier this week when one of the duckling statues from Boston’s Public Garden was safely recovered after having been stolen this past Sunday.

The bronze duck, named Pack, and the rest of its family are based on the ducks from McCloskey’s Caldecott Medal-winning Make Wayfor Ducklings, originally published by Viking in 1941. The duckling statues were created in 1987, and have since become a major Boston tourist attraction and favorite for fans (of all ages) of the picture book.