Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peter Rabbit, Johnny Chuck, Grandfather Frog and other Animals Teach Important Values

TWB and his wife in their garden with the Purple Hills and Green Meadows behind him
Thornton W. Burgess’s books (see Books by Thornton W. Burgess), whose cast of characters are the forest and meadow creatures, delighted children in the early to mid nineteen hundreds. The author paints wonderful word pictures that both entertain and educate. His first book Old Mother West Wind begins as follows:
“Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the golden light of the early morning. Over her shoulders was slung a bag—a great big bag—and in the bag were all of Old Mother West Wind's children, the Merry Little Breezes.
“Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills to the Green Meadows and as she walked she crooned a song:
‘Ships upon the ocean wait;
I must hurry, hurry on!
Mills are idle if I'm late;
I must hurry, hurry on.
“When she reached the Green Meadows Old Mother West Wind opened her bag, turned it upside down and shook it. Out tumbled all the Merry Little Breezes and began to spin round and round for very joy, for you see they were to lay in the Green Meadows all day long until Old Mother West Wind should come back at night and take them all to their home behind the Purple Hills.
“First they raced over to see Johnny Chuck. They found Johnny Chuck sitting just outside his door eating his breakfast. One, for very mischief, snatched right out of Johnny Chuck's mouth the green leaf of corn he was eating, and ran away with it. Another playfully pulled his whiskers, while a third rumpled up his hair.”
Through the Merry Little Breezes we meet some of the animals that inhabit the Green Meadows and Green Forest and learn about their friends and neighbors. We learn with them as they discover the value of adhering to the timeless principles of honesty, hard-work, and kindness and the cost of laziness, lying and stealing.
As They Were All Hungry
In Mr. Burgess’s Mother West Wind series we find out “How Old King Eagle Won His White Head”, “Why Striped Chipmunk is Proud of His Stripes”, and “How Mr. Weasel was made an Outcast” among other interesting stories. Each tale endears us more to the inhabitants of the forest and meadow as we learn important life lessons.
 
In our family Thornton W. Burgess wins the best author of books for young children. We call his books “dollar books”' because we paid our children $1.00 for each of his books that they read by themselves (see post on my daughters blog – she’s a much better writer than I am). His books are ideally structured to be used as bed-time stories. Each chapter can be read in under 10 minutes. If our children went to bed on time we would read them an extra chapter.
 
Mr. Burgess published his first book in 1910 and his last in 1960. In total he published 172 books. At the same time between 1912 and 1960 he wrote a syndicated daily newspaper column entitled “Bedtime Stories”. In total he wrote over 15,000 of these “stories”.
 
His father died the year he was born and he grew up in humble circumstances. Often he and his mother lived with relatives. As a youth he worked year round to earn money, often out of doors on farms. Through his stories he was able to share with millions the lessons he learned as a youth and his love of nature.
 
If we were privileged to have parents or grandparents who shared his stories with us then we are indeed blessed. If not, it is not too late to share them with our kids or grandkids and thus experience for ourselves these delightful tales.
 
A complete list of all of his books can be found at a website run by the Thornton W. Burgess Society. See my post  Books by Thornton W. Burgess for a partial list of his books and links to view online versions where available. Some of them have also been republished recently and can be purchased. Two of my favorite editions are The National Review of Classic Bedtime Stories Volume 1 and Volume 2. Together they contain all 20 of the Bedtime Stories Series and include the original artwork, which I love (see above).
 
My Christmas gift to you, dear reader, is a Word version of Mother West Wind “Why” Stories that you can download by clicking here. This file is set up to be printed on both sides of 8.5 x 11 paper (easy if you have a duplexing printer). It will take 27 sheets of paper, which you can cut in half and then have spiral bound at a local copy center (Kinko’s, OfficeMax, …). We like to use a clear cover sheet on the front and back. Feel free to share this with anyone. Please check back occasionally as I will be adding more booklet versions of the other Burgess books available online.
 
Merry Christmas!
Booklet Cover

You can learn more about Thornton W Burgess and his incredible impact on the world from the following:

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