May 31, 2012

Old Mother West Wind

by Thornton W. Burgess

When I made my list of Thornton Burgess books to read, I didn't realize this was the first one he'd ever published. I found that the style was a little different from the later stories I've been reading. For one thing, this book is a collection of many short stories that can easily stand alone; they often contain the same characters but the events don't depend on each other. In the other books I've read the events more or less followed each other in a sequential order, so the storyline was entire. Also, a few of the stories in Mother West Wind are like the Just So Stories in nature; they explain why an animal has a certain feature. This book was also missing the repetition that is starting to slightly annoy me in the later books; often a chapter will start by reiterating what has just happened in the previous chapter with a few sentences. Over and over, throughout the book. It starts to feel a little redundant and slightly tedious, like listening to a person who tends to repeat his sentences all the time.

But! This was another amusing, quick little read that tells about charming animal characters while teaching some morality lessons and also about nature. The how-and-why stories tell about why the skunk has white stripes on his black coat, and why frogs don't have tails. The other stories usually have a moral, which is subtly presented, or teach about how animals live in nature. Reddy Fox tries to play a trick on Johnny Woodchuck but gets surprised himself how bold a woodchuck can be. The fox and owl plan to pounce on and eat a family of bobwhites, but the merry little breeze warns them in time to move their hiding place. The fox tries to go fishing like he's seen Billy Mink do, but all he gets is a thorough soaking. Jimmy Skunk goes looking for beetles and inadvertently keeps destroying other animals' homes; when Peter Rabbit sees what he's doing and prompts him to unwittingly pull a snake's tail, the plan backfires on Peter. Jerry Muskrat invites a bunch of animals to a party, but forgets that lots of them don't like swimming; however he manages to find a way for everyone to have a good time. Sammy Jay steals someone's cache of nuts and the other animals come together to figure out who was the culprit. Spotty the turtle enters a race and patiently finds a way to win even though he's slow.

I haven't mentioned them all here, but each story is delightful and I could imagine how they would be wonderful picture books for children. Lessons about being fair, not teasing your friends or playing tricks on people, having patience, showing compassion, and being honest are well-embedded in these tales that are sure to charm.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 96 pages, 1910

1 comment:

pussreboots said...

I was given a copy when I was little -- maybe 3. I loved hearing the stories out of that book, and later reading and re-reading them. I still have my copy. :)