It's Wednesday and that means a new book from The Writer's collection of old children's books. Today I chose one of The Writer's absolute favorite books. She checked it out of her little school library so many times, only her name was written on the check-out card. The book is The Burgess Bird Book for Children, by Thornton W. Burgess, a well-known nature writer in the early to mid-20th century. He wrote 150 children's books, all on nature, and 15,000 children's newspaper stories. He and the illustrator he most worked with, Harrison Cady, collaborated for 50 years.
However, The Burgess Bird Book and its companion, The Burgess Animal Book (another book The Writer wore the print off of), were both illustrated by the famous naturalist painter, Louis Agassiz Fuertes. When The Writer was 10, she used to run around saying she was going to be a bird artist like Louis Agassis Fur-teez.
Here is the opening of the Burgess Bird Book:
Lipperty-lipperty-lip scampered Peter Rabbit behind the tumble-down stone wall along one side of theh Old Orchard. It was early in the morning, very early in the morning. In fact, jolly, bright Mr. Sun had hardly begun his daily climb up the blue, blue sky--
Jolly Mr. Sun? Lipperty-lipperty-lip? You're kidding, aren't you?
I knew you'd say that just like I knew you'd butt in my column. Okay, the first part is a little sweet, but remember the book was written in 1919. Children's books were different then. There were a lot of books about fairies because children still believed in fairies.
I'd believe in fairies sooner than Jolly Mr. Sun. No wonder The Writer's name was the only one on the library check-out card.
You have to stick with this book. Very quickly it gets good. Jenny Wren, who has just returned to the Old Orchard from wintering in the south, notices Peter Rabbit (no relation to that other Peter Rabbit) is interested in birds. She starts a sort of school. In each chapter, a different bird is discussed, usually in the same bird family. The bird itself shows up, if it's indigenious to New England. The Writer learned more about birds in this book than in ten bird guides. It's readable and friendly and comforting. She still wants to live in the Old Orchard.
I'm very interested in birds myself. Maybe I'll give The Burgess Bird Book for Children a whirl.