Monday, November 26, 2012

Old Mother West Wind

Old Mother West Wind
by Thornton W. Burgess
illustrated by Michael Hague

"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."

With an opening like that, the book immediately appealed to the 7 yo, and every one of the 16 stories in this book was read with much relish.

It is hard to go wrong with woodland animal characters, each with their unique personality and idiosyncrasies. We encounter sweet little Johnny Chuck first and instantly like his carefree attitude and good nature. Of course, there's the Reddy Fox and Jimmy Skunk and Jerry Muskrat and Bobby Coon and Tommy Trout and Little Joe Otter and Spotty the Turtle and Billy Mink and Sammy Jay and Grandfather Frog, even Peter Rabbit...

First published in 1910 by conservationist/naturalist Thornton Waldo Burgess, the stories seem timeless and idyllic. The narration is classic and charming. With titles like Why Jimmy Skunk Wears Stripes, Why Grandfather Frog Has No Tail, the book practically begged to be read. No severe moralizing, just a simple unfolding of events where the children can draw from it what is obvious to them.

The illustrations by Michael Hague are gorgeous, transporting us to a simpler world where Time is a distant concept and life went on as it should, no rush, no fuss.

Johnny Chuck Finds The Best Thing In The World was my daughter's favorite - even before she got to the end of the story she insisted on telling me how it should go, and then confirmed it by reading it to me.

Much like A.A. Milne's gentle books about Pooh Bear, Piglet, and Eeyore where things left unsaid make up the story, these century-old tales by Burgess take us into a world from which we are reluctant to return.

[View sample pages]
[image source:]


Choxbox said...

Thanks for the reco Sheels - sounds exactly like something we will enjoy.

Praba Ram said...

Lovely! We're big fans of Thornton Burgess and his Bird Book for children. You and your kids will love it, Sheela! The lyrical, timeless quality of his writing is so soul-soothing. Each chapter touches upon a different bird. Kids have not picked it up yet. I am on the other hand totally glued for over a year now. I keep re-reading some chapters. The subtly rendered humor and the voice of Peter Rabbit make me go tongue-n-cheek often. The classic is available in the public domain. Is this one too? Thank you, Sheela!

Arundhati said...

The titles remind me of Kipling's Just So stories.

"Time is a distant concept and life went on as it should, no rush, no fuss.
Much like A.A. Milne's gentle books... take us into a world from which we are reluctant to return."

I think we'll love these stories!

Beautifully written, Sheela.

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