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Dave Schuler

I read all of the time as a kid, possibly because I got a late start. At the end of first grade I was completely unable to read. The summer after I took my dad's old fourth grade reader (a compilation of extracts from children's literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries), found a comfy, quiet place behind the sofa, and only emerged for meals, to eliminate, or to sleep. By the end of the summer I was reading at about a fifth grade level.

I went to the library and checked out all of the works that had been extracted. Aesop's Fables. Robinson Crusoe. The Swiss Family Robinson. Robin Hood. Masterman Ready. Treasure Island. And so on.

I also read all of my dad's old books from when he'd been a kid in the teens and twenties. Rover Boys. Radio Boys. Tom Swift. The Great Marvel Series. Various mystery series. I haunted used book stores and sought out other books in the various series.

Then I graduated to Heinlein's juveniles, Bulfinch's Mythology, and, oddly, Dickens and the rest, as they say, is history.


Oh hey, my parents read me all those Burgess books when I was small (or so I thought, but looking through the wikipedia entry, I see that he wrote eighty-seven thousand of 'em, of which I must only have been read a very small percentage). I sure liked them at the time, though I don't know how I'd find them now. A lot of the ones I remember were little morality tales about how X animal got X trait, with morally upright animals getting "good" traits and sinful animals getting "bad" ones. This strikes me as a highly dubious worldview for a naturalist, and even at the time, I remember finding it problematic. Still and all, though, the books probably DID positively influence me towards nature.

Bill Altreuter

I loved the Burgess books, and passed them along to my kids, along with Beatrix Potter and (especially) the Freddy books. One of the things my kids and I enjoyed about the talking animal genre as a general proposition was that although they were in a sense naturalistic-- predators like Reddy Fox are pitted against Peter Rabbit-- they are also comically absurd. One example stands out in my mind. In The Adventures of Poor Mrs. Quack the title character is separated from her husband when he is shot by a hunter. The illustrations reveal why Mr. Mallard was singled out for attack by hunters: he is attired in a top hat and monocle, and must have drawn attention to himself.

(The Freddy books mostly avoid this problem by being silly and self-aware.)

Even though they are as old-fashioned as bustles though, the Burgess books have a certain charm, and I learned a lot of natural history from them.


Aw man, Freddy the Pig was probably my all-time favorite juvenile reading (even if the later books got a li'l flaky with the science-fiction trappings). Highly recommended.


I liked Charlotte's Web, and loved Freddy the Pig. There's quite a long list of literary pigs.

Good observation on the hobbits, who show all the homebody traits and vanities of Willows animals. And you cannot overestimate how central Wind in the Willows is to British childhood. They adore it. I saw a brilliant stage adaptation of it in London years ago, and the audience reactions were remarkable to watch. Harry Potter has a place of pride as well, which accounts in part for the films' stupendous casting. But Willows, at least for several generations, holds irresistible nostalgia.


Back in 2nd through 3rd grade I read as many of the Burgess books I could find. The covers of the reprints of that era (early '80's) listed a number I could never find at the library so I found myself always wondering what happened in say Jerry the Muskrats own book. Thanks for giving me some insight into Burgess's life. I also loved the Freddy the Pig books - I think I learned a lot about adult human society through them. I was pretty excited to find out that Walter Brooks was the creator of Mr. Ed as well.


Online source of free Thornton Burgess ebooks, including "Burgess Bird/Animal Book For Children", "Mother Wind When/Where/Why Stories" and miscellaneous "The Adventures of X" (note that Project Gutenburg sourced pdfs are stripped of illustrations):


When I was an early elementary school kid (early 60's) the local library had a full set of Doctor Dolittle books, a dozen or so. I read them all. Boy was I disappointed with the movie!

Also the Albert Payson Terhune books about dogs (Lad: A Dog) domesticated and wild.

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