If you were to ask my mother what books stand out most from her childhood, I'm willing to bet that she would start regaling you with stories of Thornton Burgess' Old Mother West Wind and her many animal friends. Her father used to read the stories to her as a young child, many of them published when he was a young child, and they clearly held a special place in her childhood. I'm not sure how then it came to be that I remember no Thornton Burgess books from my own childhood. Nevertheless, the tales of my grandfather reading these stories and my mother loving them stuck with me and about the time my first child was born, I decided to scour ebay and find a few copies of Thornton Burgess books for my own library.
Of course, what I ended up with, since I found them on ebay, were books a little too old and fragile for a small child to handle, and since I read the books on my own, and loved them, I decided to find a more user-friendly copy for my children to handle. Lo and behold, now you can buy this little tidy set of Old Mother West Wind and 6 Other Stories for a song in a slim, reprinted set.
I began reading them to my older children several years ago, and of course they adored each story, each character, each insight into the animal world, each sly trick the animals would play on each other. What depth, charisma and sweetness Burgess gave to these adorable, intriguing characters with names like Johnny Chuck, Bobby Coon, and Red Fox.
Now that Finn has started enjoying just listening to books that don't always have pictures, I've started reading the books aloud to him at naptimes. He's always full of questions about why the animals act a certain way or how the Merry Little Breezes pull Johnny Chuck's whiskers. I'm so glad he enjoys them. Maybe one day he'll even tell his own children how much he enjoyed reading Thornton Burgess curled up next to his mama at naptime. That's a nice full circle to envision.