Quackenbush, Robert 1929–

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Robert Quackenbush


(Full name Robert Mead Quackenbush) American author and illustrator of juvenile fiction, nonfiction, and biographies.

The following entry presents an overview of Quack-enbush's career through 2002.


Quackenbush is a popular writer and illustrator, specializing in narrative biographies and mysteries for young readers, often featuring his trademark bird protagonists. In 1981 Quackenbush's Detective Mole and the Halloween Mystery received an Edgar Allan Poe Special Award as the best juvenile mystery of the year. The author of over one hundred books, including his popular "Miss Mallard" and "Detective Mole" series, and illustrator of another seventy-five works, Quackenbush's most prolific period came during the 1970s and 1980s, though he continues to release new books over forty-five years after he began his career. While his mysteries remain among his best-selling works, Quackenbush's nonfiction titles, particularly his biographies, have become popular with grade-school readers, utilizing a unique "Greek chorus" style of discourse to further clarify the lives of his subjects. He also remains active in other fields, having created the Gradiva Awards, which honor artistic works that advance psychoanalysis, and the Liberty Avenue Program, a charitable arts organization—created in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks—meant to help children overcome emotional stress in their lives through direct expression of art.


Quackenbush was born on July 23, 1929, in Hollywood, California, to Roy Maynard Quackenbush, a mechanical engineer, and Virginia Arbogast Quack-enbush, who worked as a real estate trust officer. After earning a B.A. in art design from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1956, Quacken-bush was employed by Scandinavian Airlines as an art director, living for a time in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1961 he became a freelance illustrator and garnered his first commissions in children's book illustration for Adventures for Americans (1962), edited by Helen C. Derrick, Wilbur Schramm, and Charles G. Spiegler, and Inez Rice's A Long, Long Time (1964). Over the next decade, he served as illustrator for over forty children's books and, in 1963, edited two volumes of poetry that he also illustrated—Poems for Counting and Poems for Galloping. By 1968, Quackenbush had opened his own gallery in New York where he exhibited his various illustrations and taught art classes. At the age of forty-two, he married Margery Clouser, who now works as the Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. The couple has one son, Piet Robert Quackenbush (named for both his Dutch heritage and his father). Following the birth of his son, Quackenbush began composing one of his first fictional children's works, using his own last name as the inspiration for a series of books revolving around a disaster-prone duck named Henry who lives in a bush. Beginning with Too Many Lollipops: A Henry the Duck Adventure (1975), the "Henry" series quickly became popular, and Quackenbush soon began writing more and more original works. As his success as a children's author has grown, Quackenbush has remained involved in the arts. His artwork has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and the Smithsonian. During the 1990s, he returned to college in pursuit of his interest in psychoanalysis, earning a M.A. in Social Studies at Fordham and a Ph.D. in Childhood Education from the International University for Graduate Studies at the age of seventy. Psychoanalysis has remained a passion for Quackenbush, leading him to found the Gradiva Awards in 1994 which honor "the best published, produced, or publicly exhibited work that advances psychoanalysis." In addition to these efforts, Quackenbush is an active advocate against illiteracy. In 2001, after the events of September 11, Quackenbush created the Liberty Avenue Program, which was initially directed towards children directly affected by the terrorist attacks in New York, but has since been implemented to assist any child in emotional distress. Like the Gradiva Awards, the program ties together his dual interests in psychoanalysis and art, creating a safe fabric of expression for children through the creation of art.


In 1988 Robert Quackenbush wrote for the Something about the Author Autobiography Series that, "[when] I work on a book, many things are going on in my life at the same time. Very often the things that are happening around me find their way into the story and/or illustrations. The characters may take on the personalities and characters of people I've met and am involved with at the moment. Or an idea for a story may be sparked by the recollection of something or someone from my past which also becomes integrated into the book. Writers and artists are like that, I am told. They repeat moments in their lives—either consciously or unconsciously—in their creation. I have also heard that writers and artists master their conflicts with their talents and that they replicate themselves, at their deepest and most significant level, in whatever they create." For example, Quackenbush's "Piet Potter" mystery series is based on the life of his own son, Piet. The author has similarly described the protagonist of his ongoing "Miss Mallard Mysteries" as a cross between Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and his wife, Margery, and even credits the origins of his first juvenile biography, Take Me Out to the Airfield!: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane (1976), as being inspired by his prepubescent son's early attempts at flying from the arms of their couch. Piet has been a recurring source of inspiration for Quackenbush; when Piet became interested in rockets, a biography of space age pioneer Robert H. Goddard soon followed in the form of The Boy Who Dreamed of Rockets: How Robert Goddard Became the Father of the Space Age (1978). Questions by Quackenbush's readers about Piet soon sparked the "Henry the Duck" series, which chronicles the young duck's life in New York City, even drawing upon real-life elements such as using the backdrop of Quackenbush's own apartment as an occasional setting.

In his narrative biographies for children, Quackenbush draws upon classical mythology for his presentation style, using a so-called "Greek chorus" style of educational discourse. His biographies are irreverent in tone, using humor as a means of capturing the essence of his subject's lives and making the texts more entertaining and appealing to young readers. This focus on jocularity is enhanced by the presence of his distinct cartoonish style of illustration as well as his trademark light-hearted tone. In describing his creative process for writing Take Me Out to the Airfield!, Quackenbush wrote in The Voice of the Narrator in Children's Literature that, "I knew the kind of book that I didn't want it to be. I didn't want it to be the kind of book about inventors and other famous people I had read as a child. They were usually very dry accounts of how the people suffered and had to do without before they realized their achievements … What was missing from these accounts, I knew, was something that had led my childhood family and me and a great many others through a depression and world war—the sound of laughter. And that became my voice." His use of the archaic "Greek chorus," oriented towards his juvenile readership, holds in line with his interest in psychoanalysis, unconventional story patterns, and comical approaches to historical material. The chorus device has proved so successful for Quackenbush that it has even appeared in several of his fictional works. For example, in Too Many Lollipops, Henry the Duck faces a chorus of animals discussing his actions amongst themselves even as Henry seeks relief from a growing illness born from the exclusive diet of lollipops recommended by his doctor. Animals are often represented as the body of the chorus in Quackenbush's works: cats discuss the trials of Mark Twain in Mark Twain? What Kind of a Name is That? (1984) and Andrew Jackson's real-life parrot, Old Poll, leads a gaggle of children in discussions of Jackson's life in Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House?: A Story of Andrew Jackson (1986). For his part, Quackenbush recognizes the role comedy plays in his books, writing in The Voice of the Narrator in Children's Literature, "Humor became my guiding light when I was writing and illustrating my first books for young readers. It has stayed with me ever since."


Throughout his career, critics and teachers have applauded Quackenbush for his attempts to lure reluctant readers to factual material through his disarming use of light-hearted dialogue and comedic elements. In her review of Who Said There's No Man on the Moon?: A Story of Jules Verne (1985), Joan McGrath has praised Quackenbush's distinct approach to the material, calling it an "affectionately respectful introduction to the life of a renowned writer and innovator [that] is an excellent example of biography for younger readers. The author's full-page cartoon drawings highlighted with purple, plus the running interview with a reporter that appears on every other page, provide the added attraction of humor and visual appeal." Commenting on the author's usage of his trademark "Greek chorus" style narration, Luann Toth has suggested in her review of I Did It with My Hatchet: A Story of George Washington (1989) that "Quackenbush uses this device to present facts, debunk many popular myths, and infuse the telling with his signature brand of humor." However, Toth and several other critics have expressed dismay over Quackenbush's occasional lapses in historical accuracy, noting that Quackenbush lists an incorrect date of Washington's Presidential inauguration. Drawing similar concern has been Quackenbush's decision to compose a dual biography of Tom Fulton and James Watt in Watt Got You Started, Mr. Fulton? (1982), placing the two inventors in direct contact with each other, even though they are from two separate historical eras. Several commentators have wondered whether such narrative tricks may, in fact, offer a disservice to Quackenbush's readers by presenting inaccurate details. Quackenbush, for his part, has acknowledged that his prose style may make even true stories seem unreal, a fact he recognizes in his description of Oh, What an Awful Mess!: A Story of Charles Goodyear (1980), in which he notes "the cartoonlike illustrations outweigh the text, making the story, based on true facts, seem fictitious."


Children's Works as Author/Illustrator

Old MacDonald Had a Farm (juvenile fiction) 1972
Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Starring the Old Gray Goose, Who Is a Living Legend in Her Own Lifetime and the Greatest American since the American Eagle (juvenile fiction) 1973
She'll Be Comin' 'round the Mountain (juvenile fiction) 1973
Clementine (juvenile fiction) 1974
There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight: The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 Told with Songs and Pictures (juvenile nonfiction) 1974
Animal Cracks (juvenile fiction) 1975
The Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Circus Life of Emmett Kelly, Sr. (juvenile nonfiction) 1975
Skip to My Lou (juvenile fiction) 1975
Pete Pack Rat (juvenile fiction) 1976
Pop! Goes the Weasel and Yankee Doodle (juvenile fiction) 1976
Take Me Out to the Airfield!: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane (juvenile nonfiction) 1976
Sheriff Sally Gopher and the Haunted Dance Hall (juvenile fiction) 1977
Along Came the Model T!: How Henry Ford Put the World on Wheels (juvenile nonfiction) 1978
The Boy Who Dreamed of Rockets: How Robert God-dard Became the Father of the Space Age (juvenile nonfiction) 1978
Calling Doctor Quack (juvenile fiction) 1978
The Most Welcome Visitor (juvenile fiction) 1978
Mr. Snow Bunting's Secret (juvenile fiction) 1978
Pete Pack Rat and the Gila Monster Gang (juvenile fiction) 1978
Moose's Store (juvenile fiction) 1979
Who Threw That Pie?: The Birth of Movie Comedy (juvenile nonfiction) 1979
Movie Monsters and Their Masters: The Birth of the Horror Film (juvenile nonfiction) 1980
The Boy Who Waited for Santa Claus (juvenile fiction) 1981
City Trucks (juvenile fiction) 1981
No Mouse for Me (juvenile fiction) 1981
Pete Pack Rat's Christmas Eve Surprise (juvenile fiction) 1981
First Grade Jitters (juvenile fiction) 1982
Sheriff Sally Gopher and the Thanksgiving Caper (juvenile fiction) 1982
I Don't Want to Go, I Don't Know How to Act (juvenile fiction) 1983
Funny Bunnies (juvenile fiction) 1984
Investigator Ketchem's Crime Book (juvenile fiction) 1984

Chuck Lends a Paw (juvenile fiction) 1986
Mouse Feathers (juvenile fiction) 1988
Too Many Pizzas (juvenile fiction) 1988
Too Many School Days (juvenile fiction) 1988
Funny Bunnies on the Run (juvenile fiction) 1989
Robert Quackenbush's Treasury of Humor (juvenile fiction) 1990
Benjamin Franklin and His Friends (juvenile nonfiction) 1991
Arthur Ashe and His Match with History (juvenile nonfiction) 1994
James Madison and Dolley Madison and Their Times (juvenile nonfiction) 1994
Clara Barton and Her Victory over Fear (juvenile nonfiction) 1995
Batbaby (juvenile fiction) 1997
Daughter of Liberty: A True Story of the American Revolution (juvenile nonfiction) 1998
Batbaby Finds a Home (juvenile fiction) 2001

"Detective Mole" Series as Author/Illustrator

Detective Mole (juvenile mystery) 1976
Detective Mole and the Secret Clues (juvenile mystery) 1977
Detective Mole and the Tip-Top Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1978
Detective Mole and the Seashore Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1979
Detective Mole and the Circus Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1980
Detective Mole and the Halloween Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1981
Detective Mole and the Haunted Castle Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1985

"Henry the Duck" Series as Author/Illustrator

Too Many Lollipops: A Henry the Duck Adventure (juvenile fiction) 1975
Henry's Awful Mistake (juvenile fiction) 1980
Henry's Important Date (juvenile fiction) 1981
Henry Goes West (juvenile fiction) 1982
Henry Babysits (juvenile fiction) 1983
Too Many Ducklings: A Henry the Duck Adventure (juvenile fiction) 1987
Henry's World Tour (juvenile fiction) 1992

"Miss Mallard" Series as Author/Illustrator

Express Train to Trouble (juvenile mystery) 1981
Cable Car to Catastrophe (juvenile mystery) 1982
Dig to Disaster (juvenile mystery) 1982
Gondola to Danger (juvenile mystery) 1983
Stairway to Doom (juvenile mystery) 1983
Rickshaw to Horror (juvenile mystery) 1984
Taxi to Intrigue (juvenile mystery) 1984
Bicycle to Treachery (juvenile mystery) 1985
Stage Door to Terror (juvenile mystery) 1985
Surfboard to Peril (juvenile mystery) 1986
Texas Trail to Calamity (juvenile mystery) 1986
Dogsled to Dread (juvenile mystery) 1987
Danger in Tibet (juvenile mystery) 1989
Lost in the Amazon (juvenile mystery) 1990
Evil under the Sea (juvenile mystery) 1992
Flamenco to Mischief (juvenile mystery) 2000
Miss Mallard's Case Book (juvenile mystery) 2000
Mishap in Kaiserlautern (juvenile mystery) 2001

"Piet Potter" Series as Author/Illustrator

Piet Potter's First Case (juvenile mystery) 1980
Piet Potter Returns (juvenile mystery) 1980
Piet Potter Strikes Again (juvenile mystery) 1981
Piet Potter to the Rescue (juvenile mystery) 1981
Piet Potter's Hot Clue (juvenile mystery) 1982
Piet Potter on the Run (juvenile mystery) 1982

"Sherlock Chick" Series as Author/Illustrator

Sherlock Chick's First Case (juvenile mystery) 1986
Sherlock Chick and the Peekaboo Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1987
Sherlock Chick and the Giant Egg Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1988
Sherlock Chick and the Noisy Shed Mystery (juvenile mystery) 1989
Sherlock Chick and the Case of the Night Noises (juvenile mystery) 1990

Juvenile Biographies as Author/Illustrator

Oh, What an Awful Mess!: A Story of Charles Goodyear (juvenile biography) 1980
Ahoy! Ahoy! Are You There?: A Story of Alexander Graham Bell (juvenile biography) 1981
What Has Wild Tom Done Now?: A Story of Thomas Alva Edison (juvenile biography) 1981
Here a Plant, There a Plant, Everywhere a Plant, Plant!: A Story of Luther Burbank (juvenile biography) 1982
Watt Got You Started, Mr. Fulton?: A Story of James Watt and Robert Fulton (juvenile biography) 1982
The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher: A Story of Charles Darwin (juvenile biography) 1983
Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line!: A Story of Samuel F. B. Morse (juvenile biography) 1983
Don't You Dare Shoot That Bear!: A Story of Theodore Roosevelt (juvenile biography) 1984
Mark Twain? What Kind of Name Is That?: A Story of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (juvenile biography) 1984
Once upon a Time!: A Story of the Brothers Grimm (juvenile biography) 1985

Who Said There's No Man on the Moon?: A Story of Jules Verne (juvenile biography) 1985
Old Silver Leg Takes Over!: A Story of Peter Stuyvesant (juvenile biography) 1986
Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House?: A Story of Andrew Jackson (juvenile biography) 1986
Quit Pulling My Leg!: A Story of Davy Crockett (juvenile biography) 1987
Who's That Girl with the Gun?: A Story of Annie Oakley (juvenile biography) 1988
I Did It with My Hatchet: A Story of George Washington (juvenile biography) 1989
Clear the Cow Pasture, I'm Coming in for a Landing!: A Story of Amelia Earhart (juvenile biography) 1990
Pass the Quill, I'll Write a Draft: A Story of Thomas Jefferson (juvenile biography) 1990
Stop the Presses, Nellie's Got a Scoop!: A Story of Nellie Bly (juvenile biography) 1992

Selected Children's Works as Illustrator

Adventures for Americans [edited by Helen C. Derrick, Wilbur Schramm, and Charles G. Spiegler] (juvenile nonfiction) 1962
A Long, Long Time [by Inez Rice] (juvenile fiction) 1964
If I Drove a Truck [by Miriam B. Young] (juvenile fiction) 1967
Horatio [by Eleanor L. Clymer] (juvenile fiction) 1968
If I Flew a Plane [by Miriam B. Young] (juvenile fiction) 1970
You and Me [by Charlotte Zolotow] (juvenile fiction) 1970
The Scribbler [by George Mendoza] (juvenile fiction) 1971
If I Rode an Elephant [by Miriam B. Young] (juvenile fiction) 1974
Leave Horatio Alone [by Eleanor L. Clymer] (juvenile fiction) 1974
The Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another [by Walter Dean Myers] (juvenile fiction) 1980
Where Did Your Family Come From?: A Book about Immigrants [by Melvin and Gilda Berger] (juvenile nonfiction) 1993
The Whole World in Your Hands: Looking at Maps [by Melvin and Gilda Berger] (juvenile nonfiction) 1993

Other Works

Poems for Counting [editor and illustrator] (children's poetry) 1963
Poems for Galloping [editor and illustrator] (children's poetry) 1963


Robert Quackenbush (essay date 1989)

SOURCE: Quackenbush, Robert. "Laughter in Biography: Narrating for Today's Children." In The Voice of the Narrator in Children's Literature, edited by Charlotte F. Otten and Gary D. Schmidt, pp. 341-46. New York, N.Y.: Greenwood Press, 1989.

[In the following essay, Quackenbush discusses his liberal use of humor in his works of children's literature, particularly in his biographies for young readers.]

Writing and illustrating for today's children is not easy. Nor is teaching. Writers and artists and teachers know that. Just ask them. And there is much in the news about how reading and art in schools is on an accelerated decline and that we are faced with being an illiterate nation. Television has been pointed to as the culprit. So has the rise in broken homes. Not to mention writers, artists, and teachers. All looks pretty hopeless and on the brink of going out of control—not helped by the fact that we are living in chaotic times.

If I were to make a book about this sad state of affairs, you can be sure I would have a couple of animals to the side of the gloomy text making some hilarious comment. Those little characters would be the only light shining in the mire, who, like the child pointing out that the emperor is not wearing clothes, point to a truth—that on the dark side of life, humor can sustain us.

I recall my first introduction to this way of working when I was in high school and studying the classics. The plays of Shakespeare stand out in my mind. He often used a moment of comic relief in his tragedies. The porter struggling to open the door in the middle of the night in Macbeth is one of my favorite examples. The works of Oscar Wilde were another influence. What could be funny about a baby being abandoned in a railroad station? Wilde made it so in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Humor became my guiding light when I began writing and illustrating my first books for young readers. It has stayed with me ever since. Within the framework of humor is another element that I often employ, which I call "off the cuff, or Greek chorus support." I've used this element since my first books. It appears as a letter a little boy is writing to his cousin about a disastrous party given for his sister Lou in the illustrated songbook of Skip to My Lou (1975). It is the chorus of animals gathered at the window sill making comments about Henry the Duck's worsening condition as he follows his doctor's advice to eat a lot of lollipops to cure his accumulating ailments in Too Many Lollipops (1975). Most often it has become the focus of my humorous biographies for children.

My first biography for children was written and illustrated at the time our son, Piet, took his first steps in 1975. He must have thought that if he could do that he could also fly because he climbed up on the sofa shortly after walking and started flapping his arms. Before my wife, Margery, and I could stop him, he fell off the sofa and landed smack on his nose. Realizing that this was an archaic instinct in the works, I decided that it was time to tell Piet about the Wright brothers and the first human flight in a heavier-than-air craft in a picture book called Take Me Out to the Airfield! (1976), subtitled How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane.

From the moment I began the book, I knew the kind of book that I didn't want it to be. I didn't want it to be the kind of book about inventors and other famous people that I had read as a child. They were usually very dry accounts of how the people suffered and had to do without before they realized their achievements. So many of them, it seemed, lived in log cabins, chopped wood, studied by firelight, walked miles to school, and sold the family linens for a crust of bread in order to achieve their goals. "Who wants any part of that?" I remember thinking at the time. What was missing from these accounts, I knew, was something that had led my childhood family and me and a great many others through a depression and world war—the sound of laughter. And that became my voice.

Therefore, I wanted to include humor in my first biography as an enticement to Piet and children everywhere to want to read about the two famous brothers and how they invented their airplane. I did this by offering a straightforward telling of the story and added at the bottom of each page of text two modern children asking questions of a pilot at an airport to further explain the complicated details of the brothers' invention. Next to these characters two pigeons make funny comments to one another about what is being said. For example, the pilot on one page explains to the children that it is the curve of the wing—called the camber—that helps to lift a plane in the air. In response to this, the pigeons say to one another: "I never noticed my curves before," says one. "Nor I," says the other.

The success of Take Me Out to the Airfield launched me on more biographies in a similar format. When Piet got interested as a child in toy cars, I told the story of Henry Ford in Along Came the Model T (1978), with aside remarks being made by two children and a garage mechanic talking about cars. When Piet became intrigued with the space movie and toy figures, I told a story of Robert H. Goddard, the inventor of the first liquid fuel rocket, in The Boy Who Dreamed of Rockets (1978) with aside comments being made by two children talking with an astronaut at a launching pad. Then as he got older the subjects became broader and the humor more outrageous. First, among the new editions was a story of Charles Goodyear called Oh, What an Awful Mess! (1983).

The Goodyear book has probably the shortest text of any of my biographies and it lent itself to some of the funniest illustrations. When I researched Good-year's life, I had the feeling that his wife was not too sympathetic about his messing up her kitchen over a ten-year period making rubber experiments. What wife would be? Consequently, her reactions and their children's reactions to his experiments became the focus of the book. During one of the experiments, one of the children asks, "Mama, why does our house always smell so bad?" In this book, the cartoonlike illustrations outweigh the text, making the story, based on true facts, seem fictitious.

A much more complicated subject followed with the invention of the telephone and a story of Alexander Graham Bell's life in Ahoy! Ahoy! Are You There? (1981). The title came from the fact that the standard answer Bell wanted when answering a telephone was a jolly "Ahoy!" which was abandoned, to his regret, for the commonplace "Hello." Cartoonlike illustrations are again featured in this book. One illustration shows a mangled mess of telephone lines that was attached to poles along the streets and avenues of New York City. The following page shows the blizzard of 1888, which tore down the poles and lines, and a little boy outside shouting up to his mother's window, "Hey, Mom! Clear skies!"

The stories of James Watt and Robert Fulton were put together in one book called Watt Got You Started, Mr. Fulton? (1982). Although these two great inventors had lived in different times, my reason for putting them together was because Fulton had used a Watt engine in his first successful steamboat, the Clermont. The aside humor in the book is based on a famous burlesque routine of twisted word meanings. On one page a reporter is shown interviewing Robert Fulton. The interview goes like this:

"Mr. Fulton, who invented the engine for your steamboat?"


"I said, 'Who invented your steam engine?'"


"Mr. Fulton, excuse me for asking, but are you hard of hearing?"


Many more biographies followed. In a story of Thomas Alva Edison called What Has Wild Tom Done Now?!!! (1981) the book is divided into one-page chapters (in answer to the request of a child who wrote and asked, "Do you ever write chapter books?") and given titles like those used in early silent movies. Chapter two, titled "Tom's Narrow Escapes," tells how Edison as a boy got butted by a ram while exploring a bee's nest and was nearly buried in grain when he fell into a bin while exploring how wheat was stored.

For a story of Samuel F. F. Morse and the invention of the telegraph called Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line! (1983) the title and the comic asides came from the fact that Annie Ellsworth, the daughter of a friend, chose the first message that was sent over Morse's invention. Several of the spots show Annie offering suggestions to Morse. In one she says, "How about: Let them eat cake?" And Morse responds, "No! No! No! That will never do for the first message on my telegraph. Besides, it's been done before."

Here a Plant, There a Plant, Everywhere a Plant, Plant!: A Story of Luther Burbank (1982), the life story of the famous plant breeder, provided me with an opportunity for some aside "crossing" jokes for children. For one aside a farmer is passing by Bur-bank who is attending to a tomato plant. "Hey, Luther!" shouts the farmer laughing. "What do you get when you cross a lawn mower with a tomato?" Burbank responds coolly as he works, "I know, I know. Sliced tomatoes." Or another: "Hey, Luther!" says the farmer, "What do you get when you cross a cactus with a buttered roll?" And Burbank responds, "I know, I know. A sticky bun."

Cats provide the aside humor in Mark Twain? What Kind of Name Is That?: A Story of Samuel Lang-horne Clemens (1984). At one time Twain's mother had nineteen of them. And Twain, himself, kept cats around him all his life. In his last years in his house called Stormfield at Redding, Connecticut, he had a cat in every room. His favorites were named Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Apollinaris, and Buffalo Bill. I discovered this little-known fact about the beloved humorist by accident in a newspaper clipping in the picture collection at the New York Public Library. In one of the asides in the book a cat is pointing to a frog and saying to his feline companions, "You mean that made Mark Twain famous?" The aside, of course, refers to Twain's story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

Color plays a comical aside in a story of Charles Darwin called The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher (1983). The book follows the course of his five-year voyage around the world aboard the HMS Beagle. Darwin was seasick the whole time. So is it any wonder that I selected a sickening green for the main color of the illustrations?

Teddy bears are the aside focus in a story of Theodore Roosevelt called Don't You Dare Shoot That Bear! (1984). The bears have a marvelous time with their comments such as this from the opening page:

"What was T. R. called as a child?" asks one bear.

"'Teedie,' answers a second. And his older sister Anna was called 'Bamie.' His younger brother Elliott and his younger sister Corinne were called 'Ellie' and 'Conie.'"

A third bear asks, "Was anyone in the family called 'Mittie'? I always liked that name."

"As a matter of fact," answers a fourth bear, "that was the nickname of T. R.'s mother."


It was pure joy to write and illustrate Once Upon a Time!: A Story of the Brothers Grimm (1985). So much of what happened to the brothers in their lifetime was amusing as they sought to preserve fairy tales and folk tales for all time. They bartered for a number of their stories. People came from all over to trade them for whatever the brothers had to offer—usually coffee and rolls—until along came an old soldier who would settle for nothing short of the brothers' old trousers. What fun I had illustrating that! And the brothers' changing of a fur slipper to a glass slipper prompted me to do a comical illustration of Prince Charming discovering Cinderella's bunny slipper on the staircase of the palace.

In a story of Peter Stuyvesant called Old Silver Leg Takes Over! (1986), pigs dominate the aside jokes that complement the text. When Stuyvesant arrived to govern New Amsterdam he set about to transform a ramshackle fort and a village of muddy footpaths into a well-organized city that was to become New York. He thought it was a disgrace the way pigs were allowed to roam, and he ordered them to be kept in pens. Throughout the book, the pigs make remarks about their new governor and the state of things. "Remember the good old days?" one pig says to another behind the picket fence that has been placed around them.

A personal favorite was working on the life of Jules Verne for Who Said There's No Man on the Moon? (1985). So much of his life is unknown because he kept to himself. But finding unknown facts about him at some of our important library sources in California and New York made this an especially interesting project. The aside comments to the text are made by a reporter and Verne during an interview—the only one that Verne gave in his life. The rest of the asides included questions that children ask me about my writing and illustrating. I figured that it would be the same for Verne. The actual interview went this way:

"You have traveled a great deal, of course, Monsieur Verne."

"Mais non, just a tourist in the Channel and in the Mediterranean."

"Is that all? So you never met any cannibals?"

"I knew better than that."

"Nor any Chinese?"


"And you didn't circumnavigate the globe?"

"Not even that."


Another great president I chose for my biography series was Andrew Jackson in the book Who Let Muddy Boots Into the White House? (1986). The aside remarks in this one are made by two children talking with Jackson's pet parrot named Old Poll. But my favorite frontier hero is Davy Crockett. To tell his story in Quit Pulling My Leg! (1987), I employed two raccoons to separate fact from fiction to find a great man behind a legend.

My most recent biography for young readers, I am happy to say, is about a woman. It is a story of Annie Oakley, a true representative of the American spirit. Titled Who's That Girl with the Gun? (1988), it tells the story of a child who overcame great hardship and abuse and grew up to achieve international fame as a crack shot. After her success, she shared her wealth and talents to help others. The aside remarks in this story of courage are made by a poodle, who was part of Annie's traveling act. Two puppies ask the poodle what it is like working with Annie. "In a word: Wonderful!" answers the poodle.

A lot of biographies. And there are many more I want to do. Every time a letter comes from a child asking me to do a book about a current favorite hero I think about what I craved as a child. I say aloud, "Well, yes, why not!" and the process begins again.


Quackenbush, Robert. Ahoy! Ahoy! Are You There? Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1981.

――――――. Along Came the Model T. New York: Parents Magazine, 1978.

――――――. The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1983.

――――――. The Boy Who Dreamed of Rockets. New York: Parents Magazine, 1978.

――――――. Don't You Dare Shoot That Bear! Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984.

――――――. Here a Plant, There a Plant, Everywhere a Plant, Plant! Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

――――――. Mark Twain? What Kind of Name Is That? Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984.

――――――. Oh, What an Awful Mess! Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1983.

――――――. Old Silver Leg Takes Over! Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1986.

――――――. Once Upon a Time!: A Story of the Brothers Grimm. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

――――――. Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line! Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1983.

――――――. Quit Pulling My Leg. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1987.

――――――. Skip to My Lou. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.

――――――. Take Me Out to the Airfield!: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane. New York: Parents Magazine, 1976.

――――――. Too Many Lollipops. New York: Parents Magazine, 1975.

――――――. Watt Got You Started, Mr. Fulton? Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

――――――. What Has Wild Tom Done Now?!!! Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1981.

――――――. Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House? Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1986.

――――――. Who Said There's No Man on the Moon? Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

――――――. Who's That Girl with the Gun? Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1988.



Frances L. McClure (review date September 1974)

SOURCE: McClure, Frances L. Review of Clementine, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 21, no. 1 (September 1974): 68.

K-Gr. 3—Trailing the heels of Quackenbush's She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (Lippincott, 1973), [Clementine ] presents another familiar folksong with an accompanying melodramatic skit (staged in full-color illustrations) that can be narrated as the verses are chanted. According to tradition Clementine is far from attractive; however, this version pictures her as a pretty, retiring blond who is rescued from the "foaming brine." Love, marriage, wealth, and happiness all predictably follow. Such tampering with this old favorite is questionable, and some of the new verses seem totally inappropriate, e.g., the "warning" to Boy Scouts that artificial respiration was the saving factor in the near tragedy. A section on how to pan for gold and music to the song end this unnecessary rendition.


Frances L. McClure (review date September 1975)

SOURCE: McClure, Frances L. Review of The Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Circus Life of Emmett Kelly, Sr., by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 22, no. 1 (September 1975): 89-90.

K-Gr. 3—In his latest picture song-book of Americana [The Man on the Flying Trapeze ], Quackenbush relates the career of the famous clown Emmett Kelly, Sr. using the tune and refrain of "The Man on the Flying Trapeze." A simple piano arrangement with guitar chords is appended. Although the circus scenes are authentically depicted in Quackenbush's familiar, vivid style, the treatment of Kelly's life from trapeze artist to clown is superficial and the song itself loses its joyful exuberance in telling of his hard times during the Depression years. There's always a cry for books about circus life, but most listeners will find this disappointing.


Penelope M. Mitchell (review date December 1976)

SOURCE: Mitchell, Penelope M. Review of Take Me Out to the Airfield!: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 23, no. 4 (December 1976): 50.

Gr. 1-4—[Take Me Out to the Airfield is a] beginner's biography of the Wright brothers which traces the steps leading up to the first motor-powered manned flight. Each event is briefly described and accompanied by a brightly colored, interest-catching full-page drawing on the opposite page. On each page of text there is also a small cartoon of a boy and a girl talking with a pilot and two birds who are eavesdropping. Despite the misleading title (the subtitle is more appropriate) the overall presentation is effective, making this a good purchase if offerings in primary-grade science or biography are limited or outdated.


Drew Stevenson (review date December 1978)

SOURCE: Stevenson, Drew. Review of Detective Mole and the Tip-Top Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 25, no. 4 (December 1978): 67-8.

Gr. 1-3Detective Mole and the Tip-Top Mystery, his third case in the series, has Robert Quackenbush's hero investigating annoying shenanigans at the Tip-Top Inn. Salt has been put in the sugar bowl and vice versa. The lights go out and the candles are missing. Holes have been poked in the bed sheets and all the guests, except Mr. and Mrs. Pig, have checked out. Detective Mole suspects that these occurrences are related to tales of buried treasure in the area. Sure enough, after lifting a set of foot-prints and later finding the treasure, he discovers that the cooks, the pelican sisters, are really the crooked Raccoon Brothers. There is always a shortage of mysteries for beginning readers, but the plot here as well as Quacken-bush's cartoons are quite ordinary.


Roberta Arbit (review date November 1979)

SOURCE: Arbit, Roberta. Review of Who Threw That Pie?: The Birth of Movie Comedy, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 26, no. 3 (November 1979): 81.

Gr. 3-6—The author/illustrator of Along Came the Model T!: How Henry Ford Put the World on Wheels (1978) and Take Me Out to the Airfield: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane (1976, both Parents' Magazine Pr) has here produced a brief introduction to the history of silent film comedy. [Who Threw That Pie?: The Birth of Movie Comedy ] is written in an entertaining style, intermingling facts about the growth of the industry with tidbits about the careers of those personalities most responsible for it. The Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy are some of the more prominent comedians featured. Their contributions are described in a single page of easy-to-read type and an accompanying sketch in black and white and tan. There are only a few double-spreads of motion picture stills, which diminishes the book's authenticity. But Manchel's Yesterday's Clowns (Watts, 1973) and Edelson's Funny Men of the Movies (Doubleday, 1976) are more lengthy and difficult; this will serve to initiate younger readers. The last page describes the effects of the advent of the "talkies," leaving the way open for a series of similar books on various aspects of film history.


Drew Stevenson (review date May 1980)

SOURCE: Stevenson, Drew. Review of Detective Mole and the Circus Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 26, no. 9 (May 1980): 85.

Gr. 1-3—The fifth in Robert Quackenbush's easy-to-read series, Detective Mole and the Circus Mystery, turns on the disappearance of Melba the Tattooed Cow just before she is to marry Boris Bull in front of thousands of ticket holders. The sleuthing insectivore searches all over the big top until he finds Melba hiding on the ferris wheel. Caught she confesses that her tattoos are fake and Mac, the circus tattoo artist, was threatening to tell. Of course, Boris still wants to marry her and everyone (save Mac) is happy. Quackenbush's illustrations are overly busy but do hold up the ordinary plot.


Marilyn Payne Phillips (review date January 1981)

SOURCE: Phillips, Marilyn Payne. Review of Movie Monsters and Their Masters: The Birth of the Horror Film, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 27, no. 5 (January 1981): 64.

Gr. 3-5—Finally, a good movie monster book appropriate for readers who in the past were limited to flipping through the pictures in Monsters from the Movies (Lippincott, 1972), Terrors of the Screen (Prentice-Hall, 1970) and Great Monsters of the Movies (Doubleday, 1973). The author/illustrator of Who Threw That Pie: The Birth of Movie Comedy (Albert Whitman, 1979) uses the same format and chronological approach [in Movie Monsters and Their Masters: The Birth of the Horror Film ] beginning with the first monster movie, the 1910 Edison Company production of Frankenstein. While the emphasis is on films made prior to 1935, the exclusion of such favorites as Creature from the Black Lagoon and Godzilla is regrettable, especially since a chapter is included on Alfred Hitchcock, a modern director whose forte was mystery-suspense rather than monsters. Still, the author has a real talent for condensing film plots and explaining special effects (such as the traveling matte process used to make The Invisible Man). Small charcoal portrait sketches of directors, actors and actresses (sans makeup) and full-page drawings and film stills of the monsters are tinted ghoulish green.


Connie Tyrell (review date February 1981)

SOURCE: Tyrell, Connie. Review of Oh, What an Awful Mess!: A Story of Charles Goodyear, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 27, no. 6 (February 1981): 59.

K-Gr. 3—[Oh, What an Awful Mess! offers a] fractured view of Charles Goodyear's ten-year quest to make rubber durable and useful is neither thorough enough as a biography, yet is too complex as a picture book. Even the most rudimentary encyclopedia article on Goodyear reveals the liberty Quackenbush has taken with the truth: for example, the inventor dies in debt, not in wealth; and the process of vulcanization is discovered accidently, but not while throwing raw rubber in the stove to hide it from his wife. The author's burnished rust, orange and gray cartoons with balloon dialogue interject humor as Goodyear's children appear throughout like a small Greek chorus. Too bad the fresh, humorous approach here is sustained at the expense of accuracy.


Gretchen S. Baldauf (review date August 1982)

SOURCE: Baldauf, Gretchen S. Review of Express Train to Trouble, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 28, no. 10 (August 1982): 104.

Gr. 1-3—[Express Train to Trouble, t]his first book in a new series of mysteries featuring Miss Mallard, an efficient, intelligent sleuth who carries a knitting bag of tricks, bears a strong resemblance to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. George Ruddy Duck has been playing the prankster on the Nile Express tour of the Valley of the Kings. Following the classic formula, there is a sinister setup for "fowl play," a strange disappearance and a gathering of likely suspects to reveal the culprit. The crowded cartoon-style illustrations, inconsistent in tone, are too dark in spots and do not contain enough action. Though the writing is otherwise average, readers will enjoy such amusing names as Tut-n-Quacken and Professor Bufflehead.


Nancy Palmer (review date May 1982)

SOURCE: Palmer, Nancy. Review of Henry's Important Date, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 28, no. 9 (May 1982): 80.

K-Gr. 3Henry's Important Date is his friend Clara Duck's birthday party. Knowing it lasts from two till five, Henry rushes to be on time, but it's not Henry's day: a traffic jam, breaking into his own car to get the keys and present locked inside, a broken-down bus and a collision with a package-laden shopper all conspire to make him steadily later until, at ten to four, he gets in the elevator to go up to Clara's floor. Of course it gets stuck, and Henry, finally released at four-thirty, tears up to Clara's, only to find that he's mistaken the date. Robert Quackenbush's third story about Henry the Duck will keep readers going with its "What's next?" chain of disasters and the clocks in every colorful picture, which let readers time Henry's race.


Carolyn Noah (review date May 1982)

SOURCE: Noah, Carolyn. Review of First Grade Jitters, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 28, no. 9 (May 1982): 55.

K-Gr. 1—Piet Rabbit has a case of the preschool jitters [in First Grade Jitters ]. He fears he'll be expected to know arithmetic and that his first-grade teacher will speak a foreign language. Fortunately for him, friend Tammy has met the teacher and assures Piet that "She's nice" and that she talks just like they do. Magically, Piet's jitters disappear. Though Quackenbush touches some legitimate fears, their resolution is too superficial to be satisfying. The rabbits who people this slight picture book, all in shades of purple and orange, are cartoon characters who do little to authenticate a presentation that's already shaky. For a more pragmatic and convincing approach, try Kantrowitz' Willy Bear (Parents' Magazine Pr, 1976) or Stein's A Child Goes to School (Dolphin/Doubleday, 1978).


Connie Tyrell (review date March 1983)

SOURCE: Tyrell, Connie. Review of Watt Got You Started, Mr. Fulton?: A Story of James Watt and Robert Fulton, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 29, no. 7 (March 1983): 166.

Gr. 2-4—Quackenbush's book [Watt Got You Started, Mr. Fulton? ] presents a rather fractured view of history: a humorous approach that, in its fictionalizing, is apt to take liberty with accuracy. The illustrations, in blue and gray tones with bold outlines, are cartoonlike, with balloon dialogues of corny jokes and puns. This book actually is a dual biography: how Watt invented the steam engine which in turn enabled Fulton to build the first successful steamboat. The book is more difficult than others in the series, but like the others falls short either as biography or as fiction.


Nancy J. Schmidt (review date January 1984)

SOURCE: Schmidt, Nancy J. Review of The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher: A Story of Charles Darwin, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 30, no. 5 (January 1984): 80.

Gr. 4-6—This biography of Charles Darwin [The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher ] emphasizes his failure as a student and his success as a collector of natural objects and "inventor" of the theory of evolution. Darwin's seasickness while aboard the H.M.S. Beagle is emphasized as much as his scientific activities. Only a few of Darwin's discoveries of natural phenomena are mentioned. No attention is given to classification and other scientific processes that actually led to the development of the theory of evolution in the 21 years following Darwin's return to England. Darwin's later life is depicted as one of relative leisure; no mention is made of his extensive scientific activities in addition to writing The Origin of Species. An epilogue briefly summarizes the theory of evolution and indicates its current validity. Maps on the endpapers show the route of the H.M.S. Beagle with dates of major landings and details of the voyage to the Galápagos Islands. In contrast to the serious tone of the text, the illustrations and their captions are humorous, creating an atmosphere disparate from that of the text and trivializing the real context of Darwin's life and scientific accomplishments. Young readers who enjoyed the author's other humorous biographies will enjoy this one too, but it is doubtful that they will understand the significance of Darwin's work.


Hayden E. Atwood (review date March 1984)

SOURCE: Atwood, Hayden E. Review of Gondola to Danger, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 30, no. 7 (March 1984): 150.

Gr. 2-4—This time [in Gondola to Danger ] Miss Mallard, the "world-famous ducktective," is asked to investigate the theft of a priceless masterpiece from the Doges' Palace in Venice. Everything points to El Ducko, a mysterious figure in a black mask who is a friend of Miss Mallard, as the culprit. Miss Mallard is led on many a wild duck chase until she finally unravels the mystery, apprehends the culprit, finds the stolen masterpiece and restores the good name of El Ducko. An entertaining addition to the Miss Mallard series, this will hold readers' interest until the neat conclusion, but there are not substantial clues even for the most astute observers, and the resolution of the mystery depends on the "fact" that everyone who is left-handed, or in this case, left-winged, writes with a backward slant. Attractive pen-and-ink illustrations with muted reds, yellows and grays aid and abet the text.


Sharon Lee Wagner (review date November 1983)

SOURCE: Wagner, Sharon Lee. Review of Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line!: A Story of Samuel F. B. Morse, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 30, no. 3 (November 1983): 68.

Gr. 2-4—[In Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line!: A Story of Samuel F. B. Morse, ] Quackenbush's Morse is a quite human, though at times ridiculous, figure. Readers do learn that he was not the only one involved in the invention of the telegraph and that his dogged determination made communication by long distance telegraph possible. They also learn that he is an internationally respected painter. As with the other irreverent biographies in the series, humorous asides and cartoonish line drawings in shades of plum accompany the factual material. The attempts at humor in text and cartoon balloons make some of the facts stand out. The question is will children remember the facts or picture Morse in bumbling pursuit of unpopular quests. At the moment, there are no other biographies of Morse in print and the out-of-print titles are for older children.


Lois Kimmelman (review date September 1983)

SOURCE: Kimmelman, Lois. Review of Stairway to Doom, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 30, no. 1 (September 1983): 111.

Gr. 1-4—With a ducky sense of humor, Quackenbush has added another episode to his "Miss Mallard Mystery" series [with Stairway to Doom ]. Along with her feathered kin, Miss Mallard visits her late aunt's castle hoping to share in the inheritance. Complications develop when relatives begin to disappear, but Detective Mallard expertly solves the case. However, the true focus of the book is the mysterious Count Kisscula, who, legend has it, haunts the castle and hunts for victims to kiss when the moon is full. Children will undoubtedly be tickled by this view of kissing, and will most likely enjoy if not thoroughly understand the brain-teaser plot. The flat cartoon duck characters enact their antics against an ornate, three-dimensional background. Even a floor plan of the mansion is provided! Only the colors, a somewhat sickly combination of yellow ocher, blue and green, are unappealing.


Susan Patron (review date November 1984)

SOURCE: Patron, Susan. Review of Funny Bunnies, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 31, no. 5 (November 1984): 116.

K-Gr. 2—"Away on vacation, the Bunny family stopped at a hotel. The only room left was so tiny that the door opened into the hall." From this ambiguous opening [of Funny Bunnies ] (are there hotels where doors open onto the street?), Papa Bunny goes on to admit seven bunnies from the hotel staff, each with a different reason for entering the tiny room. When little Lucy returns from her swim in the hotel pool and opens the door, they all tumble out and Lucy laughs. A one-idea book, this story is overextended and strained. The crowded cartoon illustrations express the point exactly; they project a sense of frenzy and claustrophobia. The folksy colloquial language ("Came a knock at the door"; "wanted in") jars with the contemporary story and illustrations. For more substance and humor at this level, stay with the author's popular "Miss Mallard" mystery series (Prentice-Hall).


Drew Stevenson (review date May 1984)

SOURCE: Stevenson, Drew. Review of Rickshaw to Horror, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 30, no. 9 (May 1984): 100.

Gr. 1-3—Even if Miss Margery Mallard weren't such a marvelous "ducktective," who could resist a book called Rickshaw to Horror ? In this new adventure, the quack sleuth is in Hong Kong where her rickshaw runs over fellow tourist Marshall Gadwall. Following the accident, it appears that Mr. Gadwall has been struck with the ability to foretell the future, as he proceeds to tip off the police to a number of catastrophes before they happen. It is Miss Mallard who figures out that Mrs. Gadwall is deliberately causing the catastrophes her husband supposedly predicts. Their purpose is to distract the police so they can steal a valuable jade necklace. Quackenbush's quirky color illustrations and snappy plot will insure that no one cries fowl over Miss Mallard's latest case.


Nancy Palmer (review date December 1984)

SOURCE: Palmer, Nancy. Review of Taxi to Intrigue, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 31, no. 4 (December 1984): 76.

Gr. 2-4—This latest Miss Mallard mystery [Taxi to Intrigue ] finds the intrepid ducktective in London, where she's mysteriously handed a cake reading "Happy Birthday Milly!" Trying to track down the cake's owner leads her to Madame Tufflebottom's Waxworks, the Tower of London and Big Ben, with close calls on her life (including hanging by a wing from a hand of Big Ben) at each stop. The mystery cake turns out to be a sweet repository for microfilm plans of the Ducky Wucky missile, and one of its bakers an enemy agent. Another feather in Miss M's quack. The brushes with death are exciting, Miss Mallard's brainwork is clever, and the darkish illustrations (although verging, sometimes, on the indecipherable) lend a proper air of sinister suspense. The fowl names of some of the characters (Archibald Dusty Duck, Wallace Pochard, Lynas T. Eider) seem unnecessarily and complicatedly contrived, but once they get them sorted out, readers should have a good time with the mystery.


Drew Stevenson and Trevelyn E. Jones (review date May 1985)

SOURCE: Stevenson, Drew, and Trevelyn E. Jones. Review of Detective Mole and the Haunted Castle Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 31, no. 9 (May 1985): 108.

PreS-Gr. 3—Horace Rabbit and his family have struck it rich and bought a Spanish castle which has been shipped home piece by piece and reassembled for them by architect Phil Cat [in Detective Mole and the Haunted Castle Mystery ]. The Rabbits then invite all of their friends over for a masquerade party. That's when they begin to hear strange noises in the castle. Fortunately, one of the guests is Detective Mole. While Horace is taking his guests on a tour of the castle, three of them mysteriously disappear. It is Detective Mole who finds the missing guests and shortly thereafter reveals the double solution to the mystery. The concept of the guests being swept through the secret entrances is not successfully conveyed in the drawings, but this is a small quibble, since Quackenbush packages humor, suspense and a neat little mystery with his eye-popping full-color illustrations.


Ronald A. Van de Voorde (review date November 1985)

SOURCE: Van de Voorde, Ronald A. Review of Once upon a Time!: A Story of the Brothers Grimm, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 32, no. 3 (November 1985): 77.

Gr. 2-4—There is not a great deal of information about the Grimm brothers in Quackenbush's humorous picture biography, [Once upon a Time!: A Story of the Brothers Grimm, ] although there is more than one finds in the typical children's encyclopedia. The simplification of information may be misleading, and Quackenbush does not cite sources, even for curious statements like the brothers worked at the same desk. The writing is sometimes bland and at other times seems off-hand. The explanation of the differences between folk and fairy tales seems to refer to the way the Grimms used the terms (differently than they are generally used today) but this is not made clear and is therefore misleading. The cartoonish illustrations, done in a reddish shade and black, include dialogue balloons in an attempt to add humor, but what they add is sometimes anachronistic. The style and humor are too difficult for the intended grade level, and older children would benefit from a more thorough presentation.


Joan McGrath (review date August 1985)

SOURCE: McGrath, Joan. Review of Who Said There's No Man on the Moon?: A Story of Jules Verne, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 31, no. 10 (August 1985): 68-9.

Gr. 4-6—This biography of Jules Verne is as cheerfully readable as the others in Quackenbush's growing gallery of famous figures of the past. The impact of Verne's inventiveness and originality has been blurred by its uncanny accuracy, and it may be difficult for young sophisticates of the '80s to appreciate the gigantic reach of Verne's imagination, now that the submarines he imagined are commonplace, and it is no trick at all to round the world in 80 hours. Nevertheless, [Who Said There's No Man on the Moon?, ] this affectionately respectful introduction to the life of a renowned writer and innovator is an excellent example of biography for younger readers. The author's full-page cartoon drawings highlighted with purple, plus the running interview with a reporter via dialogue balloons that appears on every other page, provide the added attraction of humor and visual appeal. Youngsters unfamiliar with Verne's books will certainly be aware of the numerous movie adaptations. An attractive and authentic account of a man who could see into tomorrow.


Lisa Castillo (review date May 1986)

SOURCE: Castillo, Lisa. Review of Chuck Lends a Paw, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 32, no. 9 (May 1986): 83-4.

K-Gr. 3—Chuck Mouse agrees to lend a paw to move his friend Maxine's chest of drawers to her new home which, he discovers, is at the top of a very long flight of stairs [in Chuck Lends a Paw ]. He attempts several ingenious methods of propelling the chest up the steps, none of which are successful until he is reduced to disassembling the furniture and taking it up piecemeal. Of course, there is an easier way. In the final illustration, children see that there is a road that leads directly up the hill to the other door. Under the weight of this new knowledge, Chuck collapses with fatigue, and the book abruptly ends, emphasizing the irony of Chuck's efforts with a punch-line effect. The colorful illustrations humorously portray poor Chuck's bemused, confused but generous desire to help his friend, and his painful, repeated encounters with the stairs. From its title to its conclusion, this book appeals to children's comic sensibilities.


Darlene Kloek (review date January 1987)

SOURCE: Kloek, Darlene. Review of Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House?: A Story of Andrew Jackson, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 33, no. 5 (January 1987): 77.

Gr. 4-5—Quackenbush brings to life the man who was known as "Old Hickory" in [Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House?, ] his colorful view of Andrew Jackson, the rough-and-ready backwoodsman who fought his way to the presidency. He covers many aspects of Jackson's life, from his mischievous boyhood with little formal education to his serving as the seventh President of the United States. The black, white, and brown cartoon drawings on every page add humor and interest and will entice reluctant readers. The biography includes accounts of Jackson's gambling debts, his use of dueling as a means of settling disputes, and his becoming a lawyer and later a national war hero. However, Quackenbush's view of Jackson's presidency is somewhat biased. He highlights Jackson's major accomplishments during his two terms as president, but he does not mention his failures. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, passed during his presidency, shows his complete disregard for the rights of the American Indians. Moreover, as a slave owner, he refused to allow anti-slavery pamphlets to be sent through the U.S. mail. This biography may be useful as an introduction to the life of Andrew Jackson, but it is not the whole picture.


Ellen Fader (review date August 1987)

SOURCE: Fader, Ellen. Review of Dogsled to Dread: A Miss Mallard Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 33, no. 11 (August 1987): 74.

Grade 1-3—Miss Mallard is invited to Alaska to launch the annual dogsled races [in Dogsled to Dread: A Miss Mallard Mystery ]. But the Totem Avenger steals a puppy belonging to Nina, the husky who had been favored to win, and now Nina is too upset to race. The ducktective's investigations cause her to snowshoe through snowy mountains on the trail of perpetrators Vera and Arnold Drake, the heads of the Chamber of Commerce in Duckton, who had hired Jed Merganzer as the Totem Avenger. Jed only wanted money, but the Drakes wanted the sheriff to look bad so they could take over the town. Young readers may wonder about the Drakes' motivations and about how Miss Mallard's major clue, a piece of yarn, ended up in her knitting bag. These lapses in plot are overshadowed by the intriguing setting and the desire to see Nina reunited with her puppy.


Nancy Kewish (review date September 1987)

SOURCE: Kewish, Nancy. Review of Quit Pulling My Leg!: A Story of Davy Crockett, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 34, no. 1 (September 1987): 191.

Gr. 3-5—Quackenbush continues his lively series with this biography of Davy Crockett [Quit Pulling My Leg!: A Story of Davy Crockett ]. He captures the essence of his subject through a straight-forward writing style with little fictionalization. Myths about Crockett are explained by his enthusiasm for yarn-spinning and an almanac published after Crockett's death that embellished his adventures. In humorous asides, two raccoons discuss some of the myths, one quoting the almanac and the other making sarcastic comments. Two-tone pen-and-ink drawings are appropriate to the subject and text. Crockett is shown in every picture with the traditional coonskin cap on his head, but the epilogue states that this too may be a myth. Davy Crockett: Young Pioneer (Troll, 1983) by Santrey focuses on his early life and contains more fictionalized dialogue. Ford's Davy Crockett (Putnam, 1961; o.p.) covers the same material as Quackenbush for a younger audience. Quackenbush has successfully brought this folk hero to life, and his biography will be a useful addition in American history collections.


Carolyn Caywood (review date September 1988)

SOURCE: Caywood, Carolyn. Review of Mouse Feathers, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 35, no. 1 (September 1988): 173.

PreS-Gr. 2—Maxine Mouse discovers the terrors of babysitting when her nephews' pillow fight spreads feathers onto every wet surface in her house [in Mouse Feathers ]. Their come-uppance is indigestion from swallowing too many of the feathers. The repetitive text captures Maxine's frantic efforts to stop the flying feathers as she runs back and forth between her oblivious nephews and the things that she is trying to protect. This little sitcom is well suited to Quackenbush's familiar illustrations in black outlines filled in with felt tip pens. The child-like distortions of line are balanced by subtle blends of color, making the whole seem slapdash yet full of detail. The story reads aloud well, and children will enjoy the frenetic pace, but its superficial characters do not have the depth of the frog child and babysitter in Time for Bed, the Babysitter Said (Houghton, 1987) by Peggy Perry Anderson.


Pamela Miller Ness (review date March 1988)

SOURCE: Ness, Pamela Miller. Review of Who's That Girl with the Gun?: A Story of Annie Oakley, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 34, no. 7 (March 1988): 184.

Gr. 2-4—Quackenbush's biography for beginning readers [Who's That Girl with the Gun?: A Story of Annie Oakley ] traces the famous sharpshooter's life from early childhood in the 1860s to her death in 1926. Writing in a simple but factual style and avoiding fictionalized dialogue, the author devotes the majority of his brief biography to the difficulties in Oakley's childhood and the excitement and rewards of her years performing with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Two pages detail the events of the final third of Oakley's life. Quackenbush's full-page illustrations, cartoon-like figures executed in black ink and gray and yellow washes, appropriately call to mind circus or rodeo posters from the turn of the century. The bold and attractive endpapers, depicting Oakley and Chief Sitting Bull in Buffalo Bill's show, immediately place Oakley in a historical context and clearly indicate the reason for her fame. The balance of text and illustration is uniform throughout the book: a full-page illustration framed in a bold yellow border opposes a partial page of text and a small cartoon vignette of three poodles commenting on or clarifying the text. Occasionally, the cartoon commentary is informative (for example, a discussion of Oakley's real name), but too often it is forced, trite, or overly moralistic. Who's That Girl … introduces children to one of America's real folk heroines; offers beginning readers an accessible, exciting introduction to the biography genre; and emphasizes, with a somewhat heavy hand, the value that individual determination and hard work lead to success.


Karen P. Smith (review date June 1989)

SOURCE: Smith, Karen P. Review of Danger in Tibet: A Miss Mallard Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 35, no. 10 (June 1989): 92.

Gr. 2-4—Lost Horizon, duck style. Upon receiving a strange note from her nephew, Inspector Willard Widgeon, duck detective Miss Mallard goes off to Tibet [in Danger in Tibet ]. Here, she eventually discovers more than the whereabouts of her nephew; she finds the lost city of "Saga Hapi," whose waters possess the ability to infuse those who drink it with great energy. This compact and lively mystery will hold the attention of the young right up to the final unraveling of the reason for Willard's disappearance. The colorful illustrations lend a humorous aspect to the story as the High Lama is discovered to be a duck, and the Yeti, most feared of all mountain creatures, turns out to be a benevolent (and rather large) "Abominable Snowduck." An entertaining tale which young people should enjoy.


Kathy Woodrell (review date July 1989)

SOURCE: Woodrell, Kathy. Review of Funny Bunnies on the Run, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 35, no. 11 (July 1989): 75.

Gr. 1-3—A slapstick, predictable tale. As Mama, Papa, and Lucy Bunny prepare for a party, their electricity goes off unexpectedly [in Funny Bunnies on the Run ]. Frantically, they test every appliance in the house—to no avail: when the power is restored they realize that all switches were left "on." Successive pages portray appliances gone awry; the stereo is blaring, the blender spews its contents onto walls, the Jacuzzi floods the stairs, the computer printer churns out miles of paper, the washer oozes soap suds, and finally, when Grandpa is heard screaming, they rush to see that he is being "knocked about" by his mechanical bed. Unfortunately, repetition crosses the line from humorous to redundant. The cartoon-style watercolor illustrations are flat and undistinguished; uncontrollable machines are illustrated with a white sunburst which surrounds the offending appliance. The chaos caused by these technological marvels causes the bunny family to question why they need so many machines. This possibly redeeming question falls flat with Papa Bunny's feeble reply, "I've forgotten." While the story line is plausible and funny, the execution is unexceptional.


Luann Toth (review date December 1989)

SOURCE: Toth, Luann. Review of I Did It with My Hatchet: A Story of George Washington, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 35, no. 16 (December 1989): 96.

K-Gr. 3—As with the others in his series of profiles of historic personages, Quackenbush presents a brief and entertaining look at the life of George Washington [in I Did It with My Hatchet: A Story of George Washington ]. Told in picture-book format and loaded with facts, he peppers the narrative with numerous famous and little-known anecdotes, showing the human side of this larger-than-life figure. Full-page pen-and-ink illustrations highlighted with blue and gray washes show Washington through the years. The text is further broken up by a trio of fife-and-drum corps-men sitting around a campfire or table gossiping about George in cartoon style balloons. Quackenbush uses this device to present facts, debunk many popular myths, and infuse the telling with his signature brand of humor. (Unfortunately, the year he was sworn into his second term of office is incorrect). For a story for this age group, Jean Fritz' George Washington's Breakfast (Coward, 1969) remains a better choice, and in terms of factual information, try David Adler's A Picture Book of George Washington (Holiday, 1989). An additional purchase.


Denise Anton Wright (review date January 1991)

SOURCE: Wright, Denise Anton. Review of Lost in the Amazon: A Miss Mallard Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 37, no. 1 (January 1991): 79.

Gr. 2-4—That intrepid ducktective Miss Mallard is back with another rousing whodunit [in Lost in the Amazon: A Miss Mallard Mystery ]. While visiting Brazil, she attends a press luncheon for her old friend Dr. Eiderstein, the great European scientist, who unveils his newest discovery: Jungle-Nu, a liquid he hopes will help save the rain forests. A band of samba dancers rush in and the scientist and the vial of Jungle-Nu disappear in the resulting confusion, and it's Miss Mallard to the rescue. This accessible, unpretentious romp pokes gentle fun at all the familiar conventions of the mystery genre. Printed in large type, the story can be handled by newly independent readers. Accompanying each page of text is a lively, full-page, trademark Quackenbush watercolor and pen-and-ink cartoon. Lush greens and reds dominate the Amazonian landscapes, which seem more fully realized than the duck characters who often lack expression and definition. The illustrations lack a specific focus, but that won't matter to transitional readers eager to read this latest of Miss Mallard's adventures.


John Peters (review date November 1990)

SOURCE: Peters, John. Review of Robert Quackenbush's Treasury of Humor, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 36, no. 11 (November 1990): 106-07.

Gr. 1-3—Here comes the Quackenbush Showboat, with a full program of skits, rhymes, songs, jokes, riddles, and stories for each month of the year [in Robert Quackenbush's Treasury of Humor ]. Across the stage parade Detective Mole and other Quacken-bush characters, both familiar and new, ever-ready to solve a mystery or resolve a dilemma: Patty Possum's on the hunt for Peter Piper's pickled peppers; Dr. Quack removes Herman Frog from Bert Beaver's throat; Virgil Vulture promotes himself as the new symbol of Thanksgiving; Henry the Duck tries several exercise programs, with disastrous results. Quackenbush adds variety to the show with Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," Edward Lear's "The Nutcrackers and the Sugar Tongs," and a generous selection of folksongs, some with added lyrics. The vibrant, busy watercolors inject plenty of energy into this production-step on board!


Sarah Park (review date November 1991)

SOURCE: Park, Sarah. Review of Benjamin Franklin and His Friends, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 37, no. 11 (November 1991): 112.

Gr. 2-4—Black-and-white drawings highlighted with green in Quackenbush's familiar cartoon style illustrate [Benjamin Franklin and His Friends, ] this easy-to-read biography for children not quite ready for chapter books. Small cartoon owls at the bottom of each page make pungent comments and humorous asides. The author focuses on the point that Franklin was a good friend all his life, a characteristic with which children can easily identify. His relationships with his friends, and how they influenced his decisions, is discussed. Almost every page includes a quote from Poor Richard's Almanack. The inside covers, both front and back, have a list of 26 of the subject's sayings on friendship. Well organized and readable, this is sure to be popular in collections in which Quackenbush's other biographies have found a following.


Mary Lou Budd (review date August 1992)

SOURCE: Budd, Mary Lou. Review of Evil under the Sea: A Miss Mallard Mystery, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 38, no. 8 (August 1992): 146-47.

Gr. 2-3—Noted undersea explorer Jacques Canard asks renowned ducktective Miss Mallard to help him find out who is destroying the coral of the Great Barrier Reef [in Evil under the Sea ]. As young readers dive into the fast-paced story, they will learn fascinating facts about this part of the world and the influence coral has on the ocean's ecological balance. Miss Mallard carefully gathers her clues, diligently observes and listens, and foils a dastardly plot to take over the world. The initial attraction here is the colorful splash and gusto of the lush watercolor cartoons, and once readers delve into the manageable text, their interest will be piqued by the clues Miss Mallard accumulates. The plot development engages readers, with just enough danger and evil to keep the pages turning. The characters are true to the end—for good and ill—and the ducktective's ultimate triumph provides a satisfying ending. A bit of subtle wordplay adds some lightness to the mystery. Young readers may not equate these names with the tongue-in-cheek humor intended, but the tempo and pace of the story will keep them entertained.


Diane Roback and Richard Donahue (review date 31 August 1992)

SOURCE: Roback, Diane, and Richard Donahue. Review of Henry's World Tour, by Robert Quackenbush. Publishers Weekly 239, no. 39 (31 August 1992): 78.

This popular, prolific author here sends Henry the Duck on a whirlwind tour to visit his far-flung cousins [in Henry's World Tour ]. His mission is to discover which of his ancestors is responsible for the speckled feather he suddenly finds growing from his tail. The klutzy quacker manages to get himself into a host of riotous situations: he gets covered with chocolate mousse when he falls onto the dessert cart at Maxim's in Paris; nearly bursts his eardrums when yodeling ("Quack-a-lay-de-hoo") in Switzerland; is "squished and squashed" by a camel in Egypt; is kidnapped by a baby kangaroo in the Australian outback; and throws his hip out of joint while dancing the samba and the lambada in Brazil. But none of his cousins can crack the mystery of his speckled feather, the solution to which will delight young armchair travelers—and budding sleuths. Quackenbush's typically vibrant pictures shed jocular light on the customs and costumes of the various locales, which readers will want to visit repeatedly. Ages 4-8.


Diane S. Martin (review date June 1993)

SOURCE: Martin, Diane S. Review of Where Did Your Family Come From?: A Book about Immigrants, by Gilda and Melvin Berger, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 39, no. 6 (June 1993): 95.

Grade 2-4—In easy-reader format, the Bergers define and describe the immigrant experience and cite four present-day examples [in Where Did Your Family Come From?: A Book about Immigrants ]. Boris and his parents left Russia because his father was offered a better job in the United States. The hard life of a farmer in Mexico led Rosa's family to relocate to Texas. Relatives urged Maria and her parents in Rome to join them in Chicago. Chang's father owned a shoe factory in Korea, but he decided to flee the repressive government. Some statements are oversimplified, such as, "The United States is a land made up mostly of immigrants. You and I are most likely immigrants too." Their definition seems to include (incorrectly) anyone whose parents, grandparents, or other family members came to the U.S. long ago. Phrases are sometimes treated as sentences, and items in a series are presented in checklist fashion. The artist [Robert Quackenbush]'s familiar cartoon-like drawings are usually full color, occasionally in two colors. On the double-page spreads, much of the illustration is lost in the gutter.


Frances Bradburn (review date 1 September 1995)

SOURCE: Bradburn, Frances. Review of Clara Barton and Her Victory over Fear, by Robert Quackenbush. Booklist 92, no. 1 (1 September 1995): 71.

Gr. 2-5—Clara Barton has always been a ready topic for elementary biography, but in highlighting the diversity of Barton's careers—teacher, first female Washington government employee, and role as nurse and founder of the Red Cross—Quackenbush has updated the famous legend [in Clara Barton and Her Victory over Fear ]. While the full-page charcoal drawings make the book accessible to the youngest readers, it is well written and interesting enough to allow it to move into upper elementary, even middle school, and be of use to less proficient, older readers.


Marilyn Taniguchi (review date February 2002)

SOURCE: Taniguchi, Marilyn. Review of Batbaby Finds a Home, by Robert Quackenbush. School Library Journal 48, no. 2 (February 2002): 110.

Gr. 1-3—This somewhat predictable easy-reader [Batbaby Finds a Home ] follows a family of bats that is forced to find a new dwelling when humans bulldoze their old barn. They seek advice from other animals and try out various unsuitable homes. Finally, Batbaby's friends, Squirrel and Woodpecker, lead them to a bat box on the side of a house that was built by humans who realize that these shy, gentle creatures eat insects that damage their garden crops. Quackenbush's detail-filled drawings add interest to the story; perhaps the best is the hand-drawn map on the title pages that shows the bat family's old barn and all the places they visit while looking for a home. A few succinct facts about these creatures are appended. This title may encourage young readers to learn more about bats, and there are plenty of excellent books to recommend, including Ann Ear-le's Zipping, Zapping, Zooming Bats (HarperCollins, 1995) and Gail Gibbons's Bats (Holiday, 1999).

Additional coverage of Quackenbush's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Contemporary Authors, Vols. 45-48; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 2, 17, 38, 78, 112; Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Something about the Author, Vols. 7, 70, 133; Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Vol. 7; and Something about the Author—Essays, Vol. 133.



Odean, Kathleen. Review of Daughter of Liberty: A True Story of the American Revolution, by Robert Quackenbush. In Great Books for Girls, pp. 180-81. New York, N.Y.: Ballantine Books, 2002.

Offers a positive assessment of Daughter of Liberty: A True Story of the American Revolution.