Jul 12, 2012

The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver

by Thornton W. Burgess

Paddy the Beaver, whom I've met in another Burgess storybook, The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat, is a newcomer to the forest who keeps to himself. But all the other creatures soon know he's there and come to see him, as his activities influence them all. The first thing he does upon deciding to live in their forest is, of course, build a dam. Which reduces the spring to a trickle and the pond to a puddle and the other animals are understandably upset. Paddy assures the others that once his dam is finished, the stream and pond will fill with water again. And they do: when the pond is at the depth he wants, the water flows over it and runs down the brook again. The other creatures are satisfied and come to visit Paddy. Some are quite critical of his apparent destruction in cutting down trees; others of his building methods, until they see the finished product and are properly impressed. Paddy is a nice fellow. He keeps his opinions to himself, is always pleasant to others and even flatters the annoying blue jay who then proves himself to be a staunch friend instead of a pest like he is to most critters.

What took me aback was how the story differs from the scenario presented in Jerry Muskrat. In that story the stream had also died to a trickle, several animals traveled to its source to find the problem, and discovered Paddy building a dam. They complained about how he was ruining their homes downstream and so the beaver reconsidered, tore out his dam and moved somewhere else. As Burgess frequently makes mention of previous storylines in his books, linking them all together, again I'm not quite sure why this one is different. Did he want to change the beaver story, give it an alternate possibility? did he simply forget that the scenario was a little different before? Hm.

Like with all his other nature books for children, Burgess has infused this one with some good lessons. Here he makes a case for the merits of hard work, good planning, not making quick judgements on first impressions, trusting one's friends, teamwork and the wisdom of often keeping your opinions to yourself.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 180 pages, 1917 

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