Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 16 – Brown Lemming + Jumping Mouse


Chapter 16

Brown Lemming + Jumping Mouse


Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse had become so interested that they decided they couldn’t afford to miss the next session with Mother Nature. Neither did either of them feel like making the long journey to their home and back again. So Whitefoot found a hole in a stump near by and decided to camp out there for a few days. Danny decided to do the same thing in a comfortable place under a pile of brush not far away. So the next morning both were on hand when the learning session began.

“I told you yesterday that I would tell you about some of Danny’s cousins,” said Mother Nature just as Chatterer the Red Squirrel came hurrying up, quite out of breath, to join the group. “Way up in the Far North are two of Danny’s cousins more closely related to him than to any other members of the Mouse family. Yet, strange to say, they are not called Mice at all, rather Lemmings. However, they do belong to the Mouse family.”

“Bandy the Banded Lemming is interesting because he is the one member of the entire family who changes the color of his coat. In summer he wears beautiful shades of reddish brown and gray and in the winter his coat is all white. He is also called the Hudson Bay Lemming.”

“Bandy’s tail is so very short it hardly shows beyond his long fur. He is about Danny’s size, and a little stouter and stockier, and his long fur makes him appear even thicker-bodied than he really is. He has very short legs, and his ears are so small that they are quite hidden in the fur around them, so that he appears to have no ears at all.”

Brown Lemming illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In that same far northern country is a close relative called the Brown Lemming. He is very much like Bandy save that he is all brown and does not change his coat in winter. Both have the same general habits, and these are much like the habits of Danny Meadow Mouse. They make short burrows in the ground leading to snug, warm nests of grass and moss. In winter they make little tunnels in every direction under the snow, with now and then an opening to the surface.”

“There are many more Brown Lemmings than Banded Lemmings, and their little paths run everywhere through the grass and moss. In that country there is a great deal of moss. It covers the ground just as grass does here. And the most interesting thing about these Lemmings is the way they migrate. To migrate is to move from one part of the country to another. You know most of the birds migrate to the Sunny South every autumn and back every spring.”

“Once in a while it happens that food becomes very scarce where the Lemmings are. Then very many of them get together, just as migrating birds form great flocks, and start on a long journey in search of a place where there is plenty of food. They form a great army and push ahead, regardless of everything. They swim wide rivers and even lakes which may lie in their way. Of course, they eat everything eatable in their path.”

“My!” exclaimed Danny Meadow Mouse, “I’m glad I don’t live in a place where I might have to make such long journeys. I don’t envy those cousins up there in the Far North a bit. I’m perfectly satisfied to live right on the Green Meadows.”

“Right you are Danny, you are well suited for where you live” said Mother Nature. “By the way, Danny, I suppose you are acquainted with Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, who also is rather fond of the Green Meadows. I ought to have sent word to him to be here this morning.”

Hardly were the words out of Mother Nature’s mouth when something landed in the leaves almost at her feet and right in the middle of their session. Instantly Danny Meadow Mouse scurried under a pile of dead leaves. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse darted into a knothole in the log on which he had been sitting. Jumper the Hare dodged behind a little hemlock tree. Peter Rabbit bolted for a hollow log. Striped Chipmunk vanished in a hole under an old stump. Johnny Chuck backed up against the trunk of a tree and made ready to fight. Only Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Prickly Porky the Porcupine, who were sitting in trees, kept their places. You see they felt quite safe.

As soon as all those who had run had reached places of safety, they peeped out to see what had frightened them so. Mother Nature was smiling down at a little fellow just about the size of Whitefoot, and yet they had a much longer tail. It was Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse.

“Well, well, well,” exclaimed Mother Nature. “I was just speaking of you and wishing I had you here. How did you happen to come this way? And what do you mean by scaring these fine four-legged folks?” she said with her eyes twinkling. Nimbleheels saw this and knew that she was only having good fun with him.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Before Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse could reply Johnny Chuck began to chuckle. The chuckle became a laugh, and soon Johnny was laughing so hard he had to hold his sides. Now, as you know, laughter is catching. In a minute or so everybody was laughing, and no one other than Johnny Chuck knew what the joke was. At last Peter Rabbit stopped laughing long enough to ask Johnny what he was laughing about.

“I’m laughing at the very idea that such a wee thing could give us all such a fright,” replied Johnny Chuck. Then they all laughed some more.

When they were through laughing Nimbleheels answered Mother Nature’s questions. He explained that he had heard about the learning sessions, as by this time almost everyone in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadows had. By chance he learned that Danny Meadow Mouse was attending. He thought that if it was a good thing for Danny it would be a good thing for him, so he had come.

“Just as I was almost here I heard a twig snap behind me, or thought I did, and I jumped so as to get here and be safe. I didn’t suppose anyone would be frightened by little old me,” he explained.

“It was some jump!” exclaimed Jumper the Hare admiringly. “He went right over my head, and I was sitting straight up!”

“It isn’t much of a jump to go over your head,” replied Nimbleheels. “You ought to see me when I really try to jump. I wasn’t half trying when I landed here. I’m sorry I frightened all of you so. It gives me an odd feeling just to think that I should be able to frighten anybody. If you please, Mother Nature, am I in time for today’s session?”

“Yes, actually, you are,” replied Mother Nature. “Hop up on that log beside your Cousin Whitefoot, where all can see you.”

Wood Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Nimbleheels hopped up beside Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, and as the two little cousins sat side by side they were not unlike in general appearance. The coat of Nimbleheels was a dull yellowish, darker on the back than on the sides. Like Whitefoot he was white underneath. His ears were much smaller than those of Whitefoot. However, the greatest differences between the two were in their hind legs and tails.

The hind legs and feet of Nimbleheels were long, similar to those of Peter Rabbit. From just a glance at them any one would know that he was a born jumper and a good one. Whitefoot possessed a long tail versus the tail of Nimbleheels was much longer, slim and tapering.

“There,” said Mother Nature, “is the greatest jumper for his size among all the animals in this great country. When I say this, I mean the greatest ground jumper. Remember when I told you what wonderful jumps Jack Rabbit can make, and if he could jump as high and far for his size as Nimbleheels can jump for his size, the longest jump Jack has ever made would seem nothing more than a hop.”

“By the way, both Nimbleheels and Whitefoot have small pockets in their cheeks,” said Mother Nature. “Would you please tell us where you live, Nimbleheels.”

“I live among the weeds along the edge of the Green Meadows,” replied Nimbleheels, “though sometimes I go way out in the Green Meadows. I do like being amongst the weeds best because they are tall and keep me well hidden, and also because they furnish me with plenty to eat. You see, I live largely on seeds, though I am also fond of berries and small nuts, especially beechnuts. Some of my family prefer the Green Forest, especially if there is a Laughing Brook or pond in it. Personally I prefer, as I said before, the edge of the Green Meadows.”

“Do you make your home under the ground?” asked Striped Chipmunk.

“For winter, yes,” replied Nimbleheels. “In the summer I sometimes put my nest just a few inches under ground, or often I hide it under a piece of bark or in a thick clump of grass, just as Danny Meadow Mouse often does his. In the fall I dig a deep burrow, deep enough to be beyond the reach of Jack Frost, and in a nice little bedroom down there I sleep the winter away. I have little storerooms down there too, in which I put seeds, berries and nuts. Then when I do wake up I have plenty to eat.”

“I might add,” said Mother Nature, “that when he goes to sleep for the winter he curls up in a little ball with his long tail wrapped around him, and in his bed of soft grass he sleeps very sound indeed. Like Johnny Chuck he gets very fat before going to sleep. Now, Nimbleheels, please do show us how you can jump.”

Nimbleheels hopped down from the log on which he had been sitting and at once shot into the air in such a high, long, beautiful jump that everybody exclaimed. This way and that way he went in great leaps. It was truly wonderful.

“That long tail is what balances him,” explained Mother Nature. “If he should lose it he would simply turn over and over and never know where or how he was going to land. His jumping is done only in times of danger. When he is not alarmed he runs about on the ground like the rest of the Mouse family.”

This is all for now. Tomorrow I will tell you still more about the Mouse family. Have a good day everyone!” said Mother Nature as she went on her merry way.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Have you ever heard of lemmings? Have you heard of their behavior to follow one another in large groups? This is caused by mass migration, or moving from one place to another, when they are in search of food. Sometimes when humans follow one another right behind the other someone will remark “you look like lemmings”.
  2. Mother Nature compares the Jumping Mouse to the Jack Rabbit in terms of how high and long he can jump. How high and how long can you jump? How can you measure it? How high and long can your family members jump? Talk it over and see if you can come up with a way to measure in your backyard or on the sidewalk. Then research the measurement of a Jumping Mouse and a Jack Rabbit to see in comparison (even though they are both much smaller than you!)

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 15 – Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse


Chapter 15

Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse


Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is one of the smallest of the little four-legged folks who live in the Green Forest. Being so small he is one of the most timid. You see, by day and by night sharp eyes are watching for Whitefoot and he knows it. Never for one single instant, while he is outside where sharp eyes of hungry predators may see him, does he forget that they are watching for him. To forget even for one little minute might mean–well, it might mean the end of little Whitefoot, and a dinner for some one with a liking for Mouse.

So Whitefoot the Wood Mouse rarely ventures more than a few feet from a hiding place and safety. At the tiniest sound he startles nervously and often darts back into hiding without waiting to find out if there really is any danger. If he waited to make sure he might actually wait too long, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

This being the way Whitefoot looked at matters, you can guess how he felt when Chatterer the Red Squirrel caught sight of him and gave him Mother Nature’s message.

“Hey there,” shouted Chatterer, as he caught sight of Whitefoot darting under a log. “Hey! I’ve got a message for you!”

Slowly, cautiously, Whitefoot poked his head out from beneath the old log and looked up at Chatterer. “What kind of a message?” he asked suspiciously.

“A message you’ll do well to heed. It is from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer.

“A message from Mother Nature!” cried Whitefoot, and came out a bit more from beneath the old log.

“That’s what I said, a message from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer. “She says you are to come join all of us for a learning session at sun-up tomorrow morning.”

Then Chatterer explained about the learning sessions and where they were typically held each morning and what a lot he and his friends had already learned together. Whitefoot listened with something very like dismay in his heart. That place where they gathered was a long way off. That is, it was a long way for him, though to Peter Rabbit or Jumper the Hare it wouldn’t have seemed long at all. It meant that he would have to leave all his hiding places and the thought made him shiver.

However, Mother Nature had sent for him and not once did he even think of not attending. “Did you say that you gather at sun-up?” he asked, and when Chatterer nodded Whitefoot sighed. It was a sigh of relief. “I’m glad of that,” he said. “I can travel in the night, which will be much safer. I’ll be there. That is, I will if I am not caught on the way.”

Meanwhile over on the Green Meadows Peter Rabbit was looking for Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny’s home was not far from the dear Old Briar-patch, and he and Peter were very good friends. So Peter knew just about where to look for Danny and it didn’t take him long to find him.

A meadow mouse visiting our driveway?

“Hello, Peter! You look as if you have something very important on your mind,” was the greeting of Danny Meadow Mouse as Peter came hurrying up.

“I have,” said Peter. “It is a message for you. Mother Nature says for you to be on hand at sun-up tomorrow when our learning session opens over in the Green Forest.”

“Of course,” replied Danny in the most matter-of-fact tone. “Of course. If Mother Nature really sent me that message–”

“She really did,” interrupted Peter.

“There isn’t anything for me to do then attend,” finished Danny. Then his face became very sober. “That is a long way for me to go, Peter,” he said. “I wouldn’t take such a long journey for anything or for anybody else. Mother Nature knows, and if she sent for me she must be sure I can make the trip safely. What time did you say I must be there?”

“At sun-up,” replied Peter. “Shall I call for you on my way there?”

Danny shook his head. Then he began to laugh. “What are you laughing at?” asked Peter.

“At the very idea of me with my short legs trying to keep up with you,” replied Danny. “I wish you would sit up and take a good look all around to make sure that Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox and Redtail the Hawk and Black Shadow, that pesky Cat from Farmer Brown’s, are nowhere about.”

Peter obligingly sat up and looked this way and looked that way and looked the other way. No one of whom he or Danny Meadow Mouse need be afraid was to be seen. He said as much, then asked, “Why did you want to know, Danny?”

“Because I am going to start at once,” replied Danny.

“Start for where?” asked Peter, looking much puzzled.

“Start for the gathering space of course,” replied Danny.

“Um— we don’t begin until sun-up tomorrow,” Peter stated with hesitation.

“Which is just the reason I am going to start now,” replied Danny. “If I should put off starting until the last minute I might not get there at all. I would have to hurry, and it is difficult to hurry and watch for danger at the same time. The way is clear now, so I am going to start. I can take my time and keep a proper watch for danger. I’ll see you over there in the morning, Peter.”

Danny turned and disappeared on one of his hidden little paths though the tall grass. Peter noticed that he was headed towards the Green Forest.

When Peter and the others arrived the next morning they found Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse waiting with Mother Nature. Safe in her presence, they seemed to have lost much of their usual timidity. Whitefoot was sitting on the end of a log and Danny was on the ground just beneath him.

Wood Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“I want all the rest of you to look well at these two little cousins and notice how unlike two cousins can be,” said Mother Nature. “Whitefoot, who is quite as often called a Deer Mouse as Wood Mouse, is one of the prettiest of the entire Mouse family. I suspect he is called Deer Mouse because the upper part of his coat is such a beautiful fawn color. Notice that the upper side of his long slim tail is of the same color, while the under side is white, as is the whole under part of Whitefoot. Also those dainty feet are white, hence his name. See what big, soft black eyes he has, and notice that those delicate ears are of good size.”

“His tail is covered with short fine hairs, instead of being naked as is the tail of Nibbler the House Mouse, of whom I will tell you later. Whitefoot loves the Green Forest, although out in parts of the Far West where there is no Green Forest he lives on the brushy plains. He is a good climber and quite at home in the trees. There he seems almost like a tiny Squirrel. Tell us, Whitefoot, where you make your home and what you eat.”

A wood mouse at the edge of the forest

“My home just now,” replied Whitefoot, “is in a certain hollow in a certain dead limb of a certain tree. I suspect that a member of the Woodpecker family made that hollow, as no one was living there when I found it. Mrs. Whitefoot and I have made a soft, warm nest there and wouldn’t trade homes with anyone. We have had our home in a hollow log on the ground, in an old stump, in a hole we dug in the ground under a rock, and in an old nest of some bird. That was in a tall bush. We roofed that nest over and made a little round doorway on the under side. Once we raised a family in a box in a dark corner of Farmer Brown’s sugar camp too.

“I eat all sorts of things–seeds, nuts, insects and meat when I can get it. I store up food for winter.”

“I suppose that means that you do not sleep as Johnny Chuck does in winter,” remarked Peter Rabbit.

“I should say not!” exclaimed Whitefoot. “I like winter. It is fun to run about on the snow. Haven’t you ever seen my tracks, Peter?”

“I have, lots of times,” spoke up Jumper the Hare. “Also I’ve seen you skipping about after dark. I guess you don’t care much for sunlight.”

“Oh no, I don’t,” replied Whitefoot. “I sleep most of the time during the day, and work and play at night. I feel safer then. On dull days I often come out. It is the bright sunlight I don’t like. That is one reason I stick to the Green Forest. I don’t see how Cousin Danny stands it out there on the Green Meadows. Now I guess it is his turn to share and tell us more.”

Meadow Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Every one looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. In appearance he was as unlike Whitefoot as it was possible to be and still be a Mouse. His body was rather stout, looking stouter than it really was because his fur was quite long. His head was blunt, and he seemed to have no neck at all, though of course he did have one. His eyes were small, like little black beads. His ears were almost hidden in his hair. His legs were short and his tail was quite short, as if it had been cut off when half grown. No, those two cousins didn’t look a bit alike.

“Danny is a lover of the fields,” began Mother Nature, “and meadows where there is little else other than grass in which to hide. Everything about him is just suited for living there. Isn’t that so, Danny?”

“Yes, I guess so,” replied Danny.

“Now it is your turn to tell how you live and what you eat and anything else of interest about yourself,” Mother Nature said encouragingly.

“I guess there isn’t too much interesting about me,” began Danny modestly. “I’m just one of the plain, common little folks. I guess everybody knows me so well there is nothing for me to tell.”

“Some of them may know all about you, however I don’t,” declared Jumper the Hare. “I never go out on the Green Meadows where you live. How do you get about in all that tall grass?”

“Oh, that’s easy enough,” replied Danny. “I cut little paths in all directions.”

“Just the way I do in the dear Old Briar-patch,” added Peter Rabbit.

“I keep those little paths clear and clean so that there never is anything in my way to trip me up when I have to run for safety,” continued Danny. “When the grass gets tall those little paths are almost like little tunnels. The time I dread most is when Farmer Brown cuts the grass for hay. I not only have to watch out for that dreadful mowing machine, I also have to watch when the hay has been taken away since the grass is so short that it is hard work for me to keep out of sight.”

“I sometimes dig a short burrow and at the end of it make a nice nest of dry grass. Sometimes in summer Mrs. Meadow Mouse and I make our nest on the surface of the ground in a hollow or in a clump of tall grass, especially if the ground is low and wet. We have several good-sized families in a year. All Meadow Mice believe in large families, and that is probably why there are more Meadow Mice than any other Mice in the country. I forgot to say that I am also called Field Mouse.”

“Danny eats,” continued Mother Nature, ” grass, clover, bulbs, roots, seeds and garden vegetables. He also eats some insects. He sometimes puts away a few seeds for the winter, although he depends chiefly on finding enough to eat, for he is active all winter. He tunnels about under the snow in search of food. When other food is hard to find he eats bark. He gnaws the bark from young fruit trees all the way around as high as he can reach, and of course this kills the trees.”

“ And I will finish our session today mentioning that Danny is a good swimmer and not at all afraid of the water,” said Mother Nature. “No one has more predators than he, and the fact that he is alive and here this morning is due to his everlasting watchfulness. This will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up others of the Mouse family.”

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. How do a Wood Mouse and Meadow Mouse look different? Are they the same in any way since they are from the same larger family?
  2. Have you ever seen a Meadow Mouse out in a field? Did you think it was something else?
  3. Have you ever seen a family of humans and wondered how they are all related even though they may have different hair color or texture, different skin tones, even facial features (like eyes and nose) that just don’t look the same? What were your thoughts? Could it be that we are all one human family just like all the different types of mice all belong to one mouse family?

NOTE: The specific science Family name is Muridae which comes from the Latin word mus meaning mouse.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


Book Look: I Am . . . series by Susan Verde

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Susan Verde has written an inspiring series of children’s books and paired with the engaging art of Peter Reynolds to provide families with the opportunity to read wholehearted stories that bring light and empowerment even in the most challenging times.

The book that hooked me first was I Am Love: A Book of Compassion. This short picture book uses powerful wording to help us all understand how to be the light and love in the room wherever we go and in whatever we do. It is also a wonderful reminder of all the ways love is present everyday if we are mindful and engage with self-compassion too.


I Am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

The second book that caught my eye was I Am One: A Book of Action. This is an invitation to ask ourselves “How do I make a difference?” even when we feel like we only have one small voice. The messaging emphasizes that so many things start with just one – a seed in a garden, a musical note for a song, a brushstroke for a masterpiece, and the first step on a long journey. This gift of a book is empowering and a wonderful reminder for the whole family that each individual can make a difference.


I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This book, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, is a balm and guide for those folks who worry what might happen next in our ever changing world. It provides a wonderful introduction to being present with what is and the basic gentle steps on how to be at peace with yourself, others, and the world around you. Bonus material includes encouraging folks to wonder and connect to nature!


I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This keepsake, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, is a wonderful expression of all that we each are and can be. This book is filled with simple possibilities and opportunities to guide each of us to be a better human and to simply be human. I appreciate the messaging throughout this story and the offering of a loving-kindness meditation at the end to pass forward.


I Am Yoga by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Through a focus of quieting the mind, body, and breath I Am Yoga brings calm and peace into any moment and with it a touch of magic as you witness the power to just be still and centered. This is an excellent introduction guide on how to embrace the basics of yoga and to see how the effects of the poses can bring strength and clarity to your day. A must read for the whole family!


P.L.A.Y. is here to support you and your family on your life learning path.


Share this Simple Gift with friends and loved ones.


P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!

THANK YOU!!!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 14 – Wood Rat + Kangaroo Rat


Chapter 14

Wood Rat and Kangaroo Rat


“Let’s continue with other members of the Rat family. One of these is Trader the Wood Rat, in some parts of the Far West called the Pack Rat. Among the mountains he is called the Mountain Rat. Wherever found, his habits are much the same and make him one of the most interesting of all the little four-legged folks who wear fur.”

“Next to Jerry Muskrat he is the largest native Rat, that is, of the Rats which belong in this country. He is about two thirds as big as the Brown Rat and of the same general shape. His fur is thick and soft, almost as soft as that of a Squirrel. His fairly long tail is covered with hair. Indeed, some members of his branch of the family have tails almost as bushy as a Squirrel’s. His coat is soft gray and a yellowish-brown above, and underneath pure white or light buff. His feet are white. He has rounded ears and big black eyes and plenty of long whiskers.”

“Why is he called Trader?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Oh yes, I was just coming to that,” Mother Nature chimed in. “He is Trader because his greatest delight is in trading. He is a born trader if ever there was one. He puts something back in place of whatever he takes. It may be little sticks or chips or pebbles or anything else that is handy although it is always something to replace what he has taken.”

“Next to trading he delights in collecting. His home is a regular museum. He delights in anything bright and shiny.. All sorts of odd things are found in his home–buckles cut from saddles, spoons, knives, forks, even money he has taken from the pockets of sleeping campers. Whenever any small object is missed from a camp, the first place visited in search of it is the home of Trader. In the mountains he sometimes makes piles of little pebbles just for the fun of collecting them.”

Wood Rat illustrated by Lois Agassiz Fuertes

“He is found all over the West, from the mountains to the deserts, and in thick forests. He is also found in parts of the East and in the Sunny South. He is a great climber and is perfectly at home in trees or among rocks. He eats seeds, grain, many kinds of nuts, leaves and other parts of plants. In the colder sections he lays up stores for winter.”

“What kind of a home does he have?” asked Happy Jack.

“His home usually is a very remarkable space,” replied Mother Nature. “It depends largely on where he is. When he is living in rocky country, he makes it amongst the rocks. In some places he burrows in the ground. More often it is on the surface of the ground–a huge pile of sticks and thorns in the very middle of which is his snug, soft nest. The sticks and thorns are to protect it from predators. When he lives down where cactus grow, you know those odd plants with long sharp spines, he uses these, and there are few predators who will even try to pull one of these houses apart to get at him.”

“When he is alarmed or disturbed, he has a funny habit of drumming on the ground with his hind feet in much the same way that Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare thump, only he does it rapidly. Sometimes he builds his house in a tree. When he finds a cabin in the woods he at once takes possession, carrying in a great mass of sticks and trash. He is chiefly active at night, and a very busy fellow he is, trading and collecting. And Mrs. Trader has two to five babies at a time and raises several families in a year.

“Now we come to Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat, so called because of his long hind legs and tail and the way in which he sits up and jumps. Really he is not a member of the Rat branch of the family, although closely related to the Pocket Mice. You see, he has pockets in his cheeks.”

“Like mine?” asked Striped Chipmunk quickly.

“Actually no, they are on the outside instead of the inside of his cheeks. Yours are inside.”

“I think mine must be a lot handier,” asserted Striped Chipmunk, nodding his head in a very decided way.

“Longfoot seems to think his are quite satisfactory too,” replied Mother Nature.

“Oh do tell us how big he is and what he looks like,” Peter Rabbit said with great curiosity.

“When he sits up or jumps he looks like a tiny Kangaroo,” replied Mother Nature. “He is about the size of Striped Chipmunk. That is, his body is about the size of Striped Chipmunk’s and his tail is longer than his head and body put together.”

Kangaroo Rat illustrated by Lois Agassiz Fuertes

“My, it must be some tail!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit admiringly.

Mother Nature smiled. “It is,” she said. “You would like that tail, Peter. His front legs are short and the feet small, and his hind legs are long and the feet big. Of course you have seen Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, Peter.”

Peter nodded. “Oh yes, of course,” he replied. “My how that fellow can jump!”

“Well, Longfoot is built in the same way as Nimbleheels and for the same purpose,” continued Mother Nature. “He is a jumper.”

“Then I know what that long tail is for,” Peter said with delight. “It is to keep him balanced when he is in the air so that he can jump straight.”

“You’ve got it Peter,” laughed Mother Nature. “That is just what it is for. Without it, he never would know where he was going to land when he jumped.”

“Now then, let’s see what else can I share with you,” said Mother Nature. “His fur is very soft and silky. Above, it is a pretty yellowish-brown, and underneath it is pure white. His cheeks are brown, he is white around the ears, and a white stripe crosses his hips and keeps right on along the sides of his tail. The upper and under parts of his tail are almost or quite black, and the tail ends in a tuft of long hair which is pure white. His feet are also white. His head is rather large for his size, and long. He has a long nose. Longfoot has a number of cousins, some of them much smaller than he, and they all look very much alike.”

“Where do they live?” asked Johnny Chuck who had been quietly paying attention.

“In the dry, sandy parts of the Southwest, places so dry that it seldom rains, and water is to be found only long distances apart from one another,” replied Mother Nature.

“Then how does Longfoot get water to drink?” inquired Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“He gets along without drinking,” replied Mother Nature. “Such moisture as he needs he gets from his food. He eats seeds, leaves of certain plants and tender young plants just coming up. He burrows in the ground and throws up large mounds of earth. These have several entrances. One of these is the main entrance, and during the day this is often kept closed with earth. Under the mound he has little tunnels in all directions, a snug little bedroom and storerooms for food. He is very industrious and dearly loves to dig.”

“Longfoot likes to visit his relatives sometimes, and where there are several families living near together, little paths lead from mound to mound. He comes out mostly at night, probably because he feels it to be safer then and also in that hot country it is cooler at night too. The dusk of early evening is his favorite playtime. If Longfoot has a quarrel with one of his relatives they fight, hopping about each other, watching for a chance to leap and kick with those long, strong hind feet. Longfoot sometimes drums with his hind feet after the manner of Trader the Wood Rat.”

“Now I think this will do for this morning’s session. If any of you should meet Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, please tell him to join us tomorrow morning. And you might tell Danny Meadow Mouse if you little folks want to extend our session.”

“We do!” cried Peter Rabbit, Jumper the Hare, Happy Jack Squirrel, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, Striped Chipmunk, and Johnny Chuck all as one in unison.

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Has anyone ever called you or a family member a “pack rat”? Now you know it is referring to Trader the Wood Rat and his liking for collecting things and making piles! Just for fun and P.L.A.Y. when you go on your next nature adventure leave a few small piles of pebbles or leaves or acorns on the side of the trail so the next person who passes by is left wondering who has been there and what were they up to!
  2. Have you ever tried using poles or wood sticks for balance when you walk in the woods? Do they support you like the Kangaroo Rat uses his tail for support (almost like a 3rd leg)? Try using walking sticks to cross a log over a stream and then try without them. Do you feel a difference? What do you think would happen to the Kangaroo Rat if he had a short puffy cotton tail like Peter Rabbit?!?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 13 – Muskrat + Brown Rat


Chapter 13

Muskrat and Brown Rat


“Now we come to the largest family of the Rodent order, the Rat family, which of course includes the Mice,” said Mother Nature, after calling the next learning session to order at the old meeting-place. “And the largest member of the family reminds me very much of the one we learned about yesterday.”

“I know!” cried Peter Rabbit. “You mean Jerry Muskrat.”

“Yes, Peter,” said Mother Nature smiling. “Jerry is the very one, the largest member of the Rat family. Sometimes he is spoken of as a little cousin of Paddy the Beaver. Probably this is because he looks something like a small Beaver, builds a house in the water as Paddy does, and lives in very much the same way. The truth is, he is no more closely related to Paddy than he is to the rest of you. He is a true Rat. He is called Muskrat because he carries with him a scent called musk. It is not an unpleasant scent, like that of Jimmy Skunk, and isn’t used for the same purpose. Jerry uses his to tell his friends where he has been. He leaves a little of it at the places he visits.”

“Jerry is seldom found far from the water and then only when he is seeking a new home. He is rather slow and uneasy on land; however in the water he is quite at home, as all of you know who have visited the Smiling Pool. He can dive and swim under water a long distance, though not as far as Paddy the Beaver.”

“Has he webbed hind feet like Paddy?” piped up Jumper the Hare.

“Well, yes and no,” replied Mother Nature. “They are not fully webbed as Paddy’s are, and yet there is a little webbing between some of the toes, enough to be of great help in swimming. His tail is of greater use in swimming than is Paddy’s. It is bare and scaly, and instead of being flat on the top and bottom it is flattened on the sides, and he uses it as a propeller, moving it rapidly from side to side.”

“Like Paddy he has a dark brown outer coat, lighter underneath than on his back and sides, and like Paddy he has a very warm soft under coat, through which the water cannot get and which keeps him comfortable, no matter how cold the water is. You have all seen his house in the Smiling Pool. He builds it in much the same way that Paddy builds his, and cuts and uses rushes instead of sticks. Of course it is not nearly as large as Paddy’s house, because Jerry is himself so much smaller. It is arranged much the same, with a comfortable bedroom and one or more passages down to deep water. In winter Jerry spends much of his time in this house, going out only for food. Then he lives chiefly on lily roots and roots of other water plants, digging them up and taking them back to his house to eat. When the ice is clear you can sometimes see him swimming below.”

“I know,” spoke up Peter Rabbit. “Once I was crossing the Smiling Pool on the ice and saw him right under me.”

Muskrat illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Jerry doesn’t build dams however he does sometimes dig little canals along the bottom where the water isn’t deep enough to suit him,” continued Mother Nature. “Sometimes in the winter Jerry and Mrs. Jerry share their home with two or three friends. If there is a good bank Jerry usually has another home in that too. He makes the entrance under water and then tunnels back and up for some distance, where he builds a snug little bedroom just below the surface of the ground where it is dry. Usually he has more than one tunnel leading to this, and sometimes an opening from above. This is covered with sticks and grass to hide it, and provides an entrance for fresh air.”

“Jerry lives mostly on roots and plants. He is also fond of mussels or fresh-water clams, fish, some insects and young birds when he can catch them whereas Paddy the Beaver doesn’t eat flesh at all.”

“Jerry and Mrs. Muskrat have several families in a year, and Jerry is a very good father, doing his share in caring for the babies. He and Mrs. Muskrat are rather social and enjoy visiting neighbors of their own kind. Their voices are a sort of squeak, and you can often hear them talking among the rushes in the early evening. That is the hour they like best, though they are abroad during the day when undisturbed. They do have to watch out for Hooty the Owl at night and for Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote whenever they are on land. Billy Mink also is an enemy at times, perhaps the most to be dreaded because he can follow Jerry anywhere.”

“Jerry makes little landings of mud and rushes along the edge of the shore. On these he delights to sit to eat his meals. He likes apples and vegetables and sometimes will travel quite a distance to get them. Late in the summer he begins to prepare for winter by starting work on his house, if he is to have a new one. He is a good worker.”

Brown Rat illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Another member of this family is the Brown Rat,” said Mother Nature. “He is sometimes called the Norway Rat and sometimes the Wharf Rat and House Rat. He is big, being next in size to Jerry Muskrat.”

“He lives chiefly around the homes of humans and likes to gnaw into grain bins and steal the grain. He gets into hen-houses and helps himself to eggs and young chickens.”

“Often in summer he moves out into fields, digging burrows there and damaging crops and also eating any of the furred and feathered folk he can catch,” said Mother Nature in a matter-of-fact tone. He is not fond of the light of day and prefers the darkness. He has very large families, sometimes ten or more babies at a time, and several families in a year.”

“Is the Brown Rat afraid of any one?” asked Peter.

“He certainly is,” replied Mother Nature. “He fears one whom every one of you fears–Shadow the Weasel.”

“When food becomes scarce, Brown Rat and his family move on to where it is more plentiful. Often they make long journeys, a great number of them together, and do not hesitate to swim a stream that may be in their path.”

“I’ve never seen Brown Rat,” said Peter. “What kind of a tail does he have?”

“I might have known you would ask that,” laughed Mother Nature as she recalled how Peter Rabbit longs for a bigger tail. “The Brown Rat has a long and slim tail and it has no hair. His fur is very coarse and it is brown and gray. He has a close relative called the Black Rat, however he is smaller and has been largely driven out of the country by his bigger cousin.”

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Paddy the Beaver has a flat tail top-to-bottom and Jerry Muskrat has a flat tail side-to-side. They both use them in the water for propelling and they have other uses. What other four-legged animals come to mind when thinking about tails and their special uses? Can you make a list with descriptions of what they look like and what they are used for? Furry? Long? Flat? Puffy? Digging? Balance?
  2. Do you know where rats originally came from? Are they native to the United States where you live? How do they behave when living in cities vs. out in the wild?
  3. BONUS: If you like stories with rats as characters be sure not to miss this classic: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White in which Templeton the rat keeps busy fussing about in the barn while Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig have many adventures.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 12 – Beaver


Chapter 12

Beaver


Johnny Chuck and Striped Chipmunk were the only ones who were not on hand at the pond of Paddy the Beaver deep in the Green Forest at sun-up the next morning. Johnny and Striped Chipmunk were afraid to go so far from home. However, to the surprise of everybody, Prickly Porky was there.

“He must have traveled all night to get here as he goes at a very slow pace,” said Peter Rabbit to his cousin, Jumper the Hare.

Just then Prickly Porky was reaching for lily pads from an old log which lay half in the water and appearing very well satisfied with life. You know there is nothing like a good meal of things you like to make everything seem just as it should.

Mother Nature seated herself on one end of Paddy’s dam and called the session to order. Just as she did so a brown head popped out of the water close by and a pair of anxious eyes looked up at Mother Nature.

“It is quite all right, Paddy,” she said softly. “These little four-legged folks are trying to gain some knowledge of themselves and others, and we are going to have this morning’s session right here because it is all about you.”

Paddy the Beaver no longer looked anxious. There was a sparkle in his eyes. “Then I’d like to stay,” he said eagerly. “If there is a chance to learn anything new I don’t want to miss it.”

Beaver illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Paddy the Beaver climbed out on his dam. It was the first time Happy Jack Squirrel ever had seen him out of water, and Happy Jack gave a little gasp of surprise. “I had no idea he is so big!” he exclaimed.

“He is the biggest of all the Rodents in this country, and one of the biggest in all the Great World. He is quite clever as he is a lumberman, builder, and engineer,” said Mother Nature.

“As a lumberman he cuts trees, as a builder he constructs houses and dams, and as an engineer he digs canals,” Mother Nature continued as Peter, Chatterer, and Jumper sat with their mouths opened in astonishment at all Paddy does.

“Paddy begins by cutting down the trees so that he may live, for the bark of those trees is his food. Like Prickly Porky he lives chiefly on bark. However, he wastes nothing. He makes use of every bit of that tree. He also does something for the Green Forest in return for the trees he takes by building a dam that creates a pond for you all to visit.”

“Now I want you all to take a good look at Paddy,” said Mother Nature.

As Paddy sat there on his dam, he looked rather like a giant member of the Rat family, though his head was more like that of a Squirrel than a Rat. His body was very thick and heavy, and in color he was dark brown, lighter underneath than above. Squatting there on the dam his back was rounded.

Peter Rabbit appeared to be interested in just one thing, Paddy’s tail. He couldn’t keep his eyes off it.

Mother Nature noticed this. “Well, Peter,” she said, “what is on your mind now?”

“That tail,” replied Peter. “That’s the oddest tail I’ve ever seen. I should think it would be heavy and dreadfully in the way.”

Mother Nature laughed. “If you ask him Paddy will tell you that his tail is the handiest tail in the Green Forest,” she said. “There isn’t another like it in all the Great World, and if you’ll be patient you will see just how handy it is.”

It was broad and thick and flat, oval in shape, and covered with scales instead of hair. Just then Jumper the Hare made a discovery. “Why!” he exclaimed, “Paddy has feet like Honker the Goose!”

“Only my hind feet,” said Paddy. “They have webs between the toes just as Honker’s have. That is for swimming. There are no webs between my fingers.” He held up a hand for all to see. Sure enough, the fingers were free.

“Now that everybody has had a good look at you, Paddy,” said Mother Nature, “suppose you swim over to where you have been cutting trees. We will join you there, and then you can show us just how you work.”

Paddy slipped into the water, where for a second or two he floated with just his head above the surface. Then he quickly raised his broad, heavy tail and brought it down on the water with a slap that sounded like a loud crack. It was so loud and unexpected that every one save Mother Nature and Prickly Porky jumped with fright. Peter Rabbit happened to be right on the edge of the dam and, because he jumped before he had time to think, he jumped right into the water with a splash. Now Peter doesn’t like the water, as you know, and he scrambled out just as fast as ever he could.

“What did he do that for?” Peter asked while shaking out his soaked fur.

“To show you one use he has for that handy tail,” replied Mother Nature. “That is the way he gives warning to his friends whenever he discovers danger. Did you notice how he used his tail to aid him in swimming? He turns it almost on edge and uses it as a rudder. Those big, webbed hind feet are the paddles which drive him through the water. He can stay under water a long time, for as much as five minutes. See, he has just come up now.”

Sure enough, Paddy’s head had just appeared clear across the pond almost to the opposite shore, and he was now swimming on the surface. Mother Nature at once led the way around the pond to a small grove of poplar trees which stood a little way back from the water. Paddy was already there. “Now,” said Mother Nature “show us what kind of a lumberman you are.”

Paddy picked out a small tree, sat up much as Happy Jack Squirrel does, while using his big flat tail on the ground to brace him, seized the trunk of the tree in both hands, and went to work with his great orange-colored cutting teeth. He bit out a big chip. Then another and another. Gradually he worked around the tree. After a while the tree began to sway and crack. Paddy bit out two or three more chips, then suddenly slapped the ground with his tail as a warning and scampered back to a safe distance. He was taking no chances of being caught under that falling tree.

The tree fell and at once Paddy returned to work. The smaller branches he cut off with a single bite at the base of each. The larger ones required a number of bites. Then he set to work to cut the trunk up in short logs. At this point Mother Nature spoke up.

“Now show us,” she said, “what you can do with the logs.”

Paddy at once got behind a log, and by pushing, rolled it ahead of him until at last it fell with a splash in the water of a canal which led from near that grove of trees to the pond. Paddy followed into the water and began to push it ahead of him towards the pond.

“That will do,” Mother Nature called out. “Come and show us how you take the branches.”

Paddy climbed out and returned to the fallen tree. There he picked up one of the long branches in his mouth, grasping it near the base, twisted it over his shoulder and started to drag it to the canal. When he reached the latter he entered the water and began swimming, still dragging the branch in the same way. Once more Mother Nature stopped him. “You’ve shown us how you cut trees and move them, so now I would ask you to answer a few questions if you would please,” she said.

“Certainly,” Paddy said as he climbed out and squatted on the bank.

“How did this canal happen to be here in such a handy location?” asked Mother Nature.

“Why, I dug it out,” replied Paddy. “You see, I’m rather slow on land and I don’t like to be far from water. Those trees are pretty well back from the pond, so I dug this canal, which brings the water almost to them. It makes it safer for me in case Old Man Coyote or Buster Bear or Yowler the Bobcat happens to be looking for a Beaver dinner. Also it makes it very much easier to get my logs and branches to the pond.”

Mother Nature nodded. “Just so,” she said. “I want the rest of you to notice how well this canal has been dug. At the other end it is carried along the bottom of the pond where the water is shallow so as to give greater depth. Now you will understand why I called Paddy an engineer. What do you do with your logs and branches, Paddy?”

“I put them in my food-pile, out there where the water is deep near my house,” replied Paddy. “The bark I eat and the bare sticks I use to keep my house and dam in repair. In the late fall I cut enough trees to keep me in food all winter. When my pond is covered with ice I have nothing to worry about; my food supply is below the ice. When I am hungry I swim out under the ice, get a stick, take it back into my house and eat the bark. Then I take the bare stick outside to use when needed on my dam or house.”

“How did you come to make this fine pond?” asked Mother Nature.

“Oh, I just happened to come exploring up the Laughing Brook and found there was plenty of food here and a good place for a pond,” replied Paddy. “I thought I would like to live here. Down where my dam is, the Laughing Brook was shallow–just the place for a dam.”

“Could you tell us why you wanted a pond and how you built that dam,” Mother Nature requested.

“Why, I had to have a pond, if I was to stay here,” replied Paddy. “The Laughing Brook wasn’t deep or big enough for me to live here safely. If it had been, I would have made my home in the bank and not bothered with a house or dam. It wasn’t though so I had to make a pond. It required a lot of hard work and it is worth all the time and energy.”

Beaver built hut/home and food storage of sticks in the water.

“First, I cut a lot of brush and young trees and placed them in the Laughing Brook in that shallow place, with the base of each pointing up-stream. I kept them in place by piling mud and stones on them. Then I kept piling on more sticks and brush and mud. The water brought down leaves and floating stuff, and this caught in the dam and helped fill it in. I dug a lot of mud in front of it and used this to fill in the spaces between the sticks. This made the water deeper in front of the dam and at the same time kept it from getting through. As the water backed up, of course it made a pond. I kept making my dam longer and higher, and the longer and higher it became the bigger the pond grew. When it was big enough and deep enough to suit me, I stopped work on the dam and built my house out there.”

Everybody turned to look at Paddy’s house, the roof of which stood high out of water a little way from the dam. “Tell us how you built that,” said Mother Nature quietly.

“Oh, I just made a big platform of sticks and mud out there where it was deep enough for me to be sure that the water could not freeze clear to the bottom, even in the coldest weather,” replied Paddy, in a matter-of-fact tone. “I built it up until it was above water. Then I built the walls and roof of sticks and mud, just as you see them there. Inside I have a fine big room with a comfortable bed of shredded wood. I have two openings in the floor with a long passage leading from each down through the foundations and opening at the bottom of the pond. Of course, these are filled with water. Some houses have only one passage, however I like two. These are the only entrances to my house.”

“Every fall I repair my walls and roof, adding sticks and mud and turf, so that now they are very thick. Late in the fall I sometimes plaster the outside with mud. This freezes hard, and no predator who may reach my house on the ice can tear it open.”

Peter Rabbit drew a long breath. “What a lot of work,” he said. “Do you work all the time?”

“No Peter,” Paddy said with a chuckle. Mother Nature nodded and asked “Are there any more questions?”

“Do you eat anything else besides bark?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Yes actually,” replied Paddy. “In the summer I eat berries, mushrooms, grass and the leaves and stems of a number of plants. In winter I vary my fare with lily roots and the roots of alder and willow. Bark is my principal food though.”

Mother Nature waited a few minutes and seeing there were no more questions she added a few words. “Now I hope you understand why I told you that Paddy is a lumberman, builder, and engineer,” she said. “For the next session we will take up the Rat family.”


More Paddy the Beaver stories at P.L.A.Y.

More photos + videos of beaver adventures at P.L.A.Y. Pinterest

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. In addition to Prickly Porky and Paddy the Beaver who else likes to eat bark?
  2. Does Paddy the Beaver do all this work by himself? Does he have a family or other related helpers?
  3. How long can beaver dams get? How long do they last? Months? Years?
  4. Visit this LINK to the Mass Audubon Society for more information and photos of beavers.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 11 – Porcupine


Chapter 11

Porcupine


“There,” said Mother Nature, pointing to Prickly Porky the Porcupine, “is the next to largest member of your order, which is?”

“Order of Rodents,” piped up Striped Chipmunk.

“He is the next to largest and very good at escaping predators,” continued Mother Nature.

“Actually, escaping his predators is no real credit to him. They are only too glad to keep out of his way; he doesn’t have to fear anybody,” said Chatterer the Red Squirrel to his cousin, Happy Jack.

His remark didn’t escape the keen ears of Mother Nature. “Are you sure about that?” she asked. “Well there is Pekan the Fisher”

She was interrupted by a great rattling on the old stump. Everybody turned to look. There was Prickly Porky backing down as fast as he could, which wasn’t fast at all, and rattling his thousand little spears as he did so. It was really very funny. Everybody had to laugh, even Mother Nature. You see, it was plain that he was in a great hurry, yet every movement was slow and clackety.

“Well, Prickly Porky, what does this mean? Where are you going?” asked Mother Nature.

Prickly Porky turned his eyes towards her, and in them was a troubled, worried look. “Where’s Pekan the Fisher?” he asked, and his voice shook a little with something very much like fear.

Mother Nature understood instantly. When she had said, “Well there is Pekan the Fisher,” Prickly Porky had waited to hear no more. He had instantly thought that she meant that Pekan was right there somewhere. “It’s all right, Prickly Porky,” she said. “Pekan isn’t anywhere around here, so climb back on that stump and no need to worry. Chatterer had just said that you didn’t have to fear anybody and I was starting to explain that actually you do, that despite your thousand little spears you have reason to fear Pekan the Fisher.”

Prickly Porky shivered and this made the thousand little spears in his coat rattle. It was such a surprising thing to see Prickly Porky actually afraid that the other little folks almost doubted their own eyes. “Are you quite sure that Pekan isn’t anywhere around?” asked Prickly Porky, and his voice still shook.

“Quite sure,” replied Mother Nature. “If he were I wouldn’t allow him to hurt you. You ought to know that. Now sit up so that every one can get a good look at you.”

Prickly Porky sat up, and the others gathered around the foot of the stump to look at him.

Porcupine illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

He was a little bigger than Bobby Coon and his body was thick and heavy-looking. His back humped up like an arch. His head was rather small for the size of his body, short and rather round. His neck was even shorter. His eyes were small and it was plain that he couldn’t see far, or clearly unless what he was looking at was close at hand. His ears were small and nearly hidden in hair. His front teeth, the gnawing teeth which showed him to be a Rodent, were very large and bright orange. His legs were short and stout. He had four toes on each front foot and five on each hind foot, and these were armed with quite long, stout claws.

The oddest thing and the most interesting thing about Prickly Porky was his coat. Not one among the other four-legged folk of the Green Forest has a coat anything like his. Most of them have soft, short under fur protected and more or less hidden by longer, coarser hair. Prickly Porky had the long coarse hair and on his back it was very long and coarse, brownish-black in color up to the tips, which were white. Under this long hair was some soft woolly fur, and what long hair he had hid chiefly was an array of little spears called quills. They were white to the tips, which were dark and very, very sharply pointed. All down the sides were tiny barbs, so small as hardly to be seen. On his head the quills were about an inch long and on his back they were four inches long, becoming shorter towards the tail. His tail was rather short, stout, and covered with short quills.

As he sat there on that old stump some of Prickly Porky’s little spears could be seen peeping out from the long hair on his back, although they didn’t look particularly dangerous. Peter Rabbit suddenly made a discovery. “Why!” he exclaimed. “He hasn’t any little spears on the under side of him!”

“I wondered who would be the first to notice that,” said Mother Nature. “No, Prickly Porky hasn’t any little spears underneath, and Pekan the Fisher has found that out. He knows that if he can turn Prickly Porky on his back he can attack him without much danger from those little spears, and he has learned how to do that very thing. That is why Prickly Porky is afraid of him. Now, Prickly Porky, climb down off that stump and show these little four-legged folks what you do when a predator comes near.”

Fisher illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Grumbling and growling, Prickly Porky climbed down to the ground. Then he tucked his head down between his front paws and suddenly the thousand little spears appeared all over him, pointing in every direction until he looked like a giant chestnut burr. Then he began to thrash his tail from side to side.

“What is he doing that for?” asked Johnny Chuck, looking rather puzzled.

“Go near enough to be hit by it, and you’ll understand,” said Mother Nature. “That is his one weapon. Whoever is hit by that tail will find himself full of those little spears and will take care never to go near Prickly Porky again. Once those little spears have entered the skin, they keep working in deeper and deeper, and more than one of his predators has been killed by them. On account of those tiny barbs they are hard to pull out, and pulling them out hurts dreadfully. Just try one and see.”

No one was anxious to try, so Mother Nature paused only a moment. “You will notice that he moves that tail quickly,” she continued. “It is the only thing about him which is quick. When he has a chance, in time of danger, he likes to get his head under a log or rock, instead of putting it between his paws as he is doing now. Then he plants his feet firmly and waits for a chance to use that tail.”

“Is it true that he can throw those little spears at folks?” asked Peter.

Mother Nature shook her head. “There isn’t a word of truth in it,” she declared. “That story probably was started by some one who was hit by his tail, and it was done so quickly that the victim didn’t see the tail move and so thought the little spears were thrown at him.”

“How does he make all those little spears stand up that way?” asked Jumper the Hare.

“He has a special set of muscles for just that purpose,” explained Mother Nature.

“When those quills stick into someone they must pull out of Prickly Porky’s own skin; I should think that would hurt him,” spoke up Striped Chipmunk.

“Not at all,” replied Mother Nature. “They are very loosely fastened in his skin and come out at the least little pull. New ones grow to take the place of those he loses.”

“Also notice that he puts his whole foot flat on the ground just as Buster Bear and Bobby Coon do. Very few animals do this, and those that do are said to be plantigrade. Now, Prickly Porky, tell us what you eat and where you make your home, and that will end today’s session.”

“I eat bark, twigs and leaves mostly,” said Prickly Porky. “I like hemlock best of all, and also eat poplar, pine and other trees for a change. Sometimes I stay in a tree for days until I have stripped it of all its bark and leaves. I don’t see any sense in moving about any more than is necessary.”

“Does that kill the tree?” exclaimed Peter Rabbit.

“Well, maybe, what of it?” replied Prickly Porky. “There are plenty of trees. In summer I like lily pads and always get them when I can.”

“Can you swim?” asked Peter eagerly.

“Of course,” grunted Prickly Porky.

“I never see you out on the Green Meadows,” said Peter.

“And you never will,” replied Prickly Porky. “The Green Forest is for me every time. Summer or winter, I’m at home there.”

“Don’t you sleep through the cold weather the way Buster Bear and I do?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“No, cold weather doesn’t bother me. I like it, ” said Prickly Porky. “I have the Green Forest pretty much to myself then. I like to be alone. And as long as there are trees, there is plenty to eat. I sleep a great deal in the daytime because I like night best.”

“What about your home?” asked Happy Jack.

“Home is wherever I happen to be, most of the time, and Mrs. Porky has a home in a hollow log or a cave or under the roots of a tree where the babies are born.”

“You might add that those babies are big for the size of their mother and have a full supply of quills when they are born,” said Mother Nature. “And you might like to mention how fond of salt you are. Your fear of Pekan the Fisher we all saw. I might add that Puma the Panther is to be feared at times, and when he is very hungry Buster Bear will take a chance on turning you on your back. By the way, don’t any of you call Prickly Porky a Hedgehog. He isn’t anything of the kind. He is sometimes called a Quill Pig, although his real name, Porcupine, is best. He has no near relatives.”

“Tomorrow morning, instead of meeting here, we’ll hold our session on the shore of the pond that Paddy the Beaver has made.”

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What do people actually mean when they say ” that person was as prickly as a porcupine”?
  2. What other animals eat bark, twigs, and leaves just like a porcupine? I’ll get you started by naming goats(!) as fantastic eaters of bark and leaves. How many more animals can you list?
  3. *Start “branching out” into other topics mentioned by Prickly Porky such as the hemlock tree as his favorite food. What does a hemlock tree look like? What size cones does it have and who eats the seeds within them? How are the branches arranged to shed the snow or shelter birds? What is the color of the foliage? Does this change with the seasons?
  4. Visit this LINK to the Mass Audubon Society for more information and photos of porcupines.

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 10 – Pocket Gopher


Chapter 10

Pocket Gopher


On the way to see Mother Nature the next morning Peter Rabbit wondered who they would learn about that day. He was so busy wondering that Peter wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going. The result was that as he hopped out of a bramble-tangle just within the edge of the Green Forest, he nearly landed in something worse than the worst brambles that ever grew. It was only by a wild side jump that he saved himself. Peter had almost landed among the thousand little spears of Prickly Porky the Porcupine.

“Gracious!” exclaimed Peter.

“Hey,” shouted Prickly Porky. “You almost had a few of my little spears sticking in you this very minute.” He waddled along a few steps, then began talking again. “I don’t see why Mother Nature sent for me this morning,” he said. “I’m not much for long walks.”

Peter pricked up his long ears. “Oh, I know!” he cried. “ You’re a Rodent, and we are going to learn all about you this morning.”

“I’m not a Rodent; I’m a Porcupine,” Prickly Porky said matter-of-factly.

“You’re a Rodent just the same. You’ve got big gnawing teeth, and any one with that kind of teeth is a Rodent,” reported Peter. Then at a sudden thought a funny look passed over his face. “Why, that means that you and I are related in a way,” he added.

“Oh, I don’t believe it,” Prickly Porky said still shuffling along. “ What is this learning session about anyway? I already know how to get all I want to eat and how to make everybody get out of my way and leave me alone, and that’s enough to know when you are a porcupine.” He rattled the thousand little spears hidden in his coat, and Peter shivered at the sound.

Prickly Porky the Porcupine illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

At that Peter hurried on ahead, lipperty-lipperty-lip, while Prickly Porky slowly shuffled and rattled along behind.

All the other four-legged folks were there when Peter arrived. Prickly Porky wasn’t even in sight. Mother Nature wasted no time and began at once.

“Yesterday,” she began, “I told you about two little haymakers of the high mountains of the Far West. Who were they, Peter Rabbit?”

“Pika and Stubtail the Mountain Beaver,” replied Peter with great promptness.

“Right,” said Mother Nature. “Now I am going to tell you of one of my little plowmen who also lives in the Far West and prefers the great plains to the high mountains, though he is sometimes found in the latter. He is Grubby the Gopher, a member of the same order the rest of you belong to, and yet of a family quite his own. He is properly called the Pocket Gopher.”

“Does he have pockets in his cheeks like mine?” asked Striped Chipmunk eagerly.

“He has pockets in his cheeks, and that is why he is called Pocket Gopher,” replied Mother Nature; “however they are not at all like yours, Striped Chipmunk. Yours are on the inside of your cheeks, and his are on the outside.”

“How funny!” exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.

“Your pockets are small compared with those of Grubby,” continued Mother Nature. “One of his covers almost the whole side of his head back to his short neck, and it is lined with fur, and remember he has two of them. Grubby uses these for carrying food and never for carrying out earth when he is digging a tunnel, as some folks think he does. He stuffs them full with his front feet and empties them by pressing them from the back with his feet. The Gopher family is quite large and the members range in size from the size of Danny the Meadow Mouse to that of the Rat, only these bigger members are stouter and heavier than the Rat. Some are reddish-brown and some are gray. Whatever his size and wherever he is found, Grubby’s habits are the same.”

All this time Peter Rabbit had been fidgeting about. It was quite clear that Peter had something on his mind. Now as Old Mother Nature paused, Peter found the chance he had been waiting for. “If you please, why did you call him a plowman?” he asked eagerly.

“I’m coming to that,” replied Mother Nature, smiling at Peter’s eagerness. “Grubby Gopher spends most of his life underground, very much like Miner the Mole, whom you all know. He can dig tunnels just about as fast. His legs are short, and his front legs and feet are very stout and strong. They are armed with very long, strong claws and it is with these and the help of his big cutting teeth that Grubby digs. He throws the earth under him and then kicks it behind him with his hind feet. When he has quite a pile behind him he turns around, and with his front feet and head pushes it along to a little side tunnel and then up to the surface of the ground. As soon as he has it all out he plugs up the opening and goes back to digging. The loose earth he has pushed out makes little mounds, and he makes one of these mounds every few feet.”

“Grubby is a great worker. He is very industrious. Since he is underground, it doesn’t make much difference to him whether it be night or day. In summer, during the hottest part of the day, he rests. His eyes are small and he doesn’t see well because he has little use for them, coming out on the surface very seldom and then usually in the dusk. He has a funny little tail without any hair on it; this is very sensitive and serves him as a sort of guide when he runs backward along his tunnel, which he can do quite fast. A funny thing about those long claws on his front feet is that he folds them under when he is walking or running. Do any of you know why Farmer Brown plows his garden?”

As she asked this, Mother Nature looked from one to another, and each in turn shook his head. “It is to mix the dead vegetable matter thoroughly with the earth so that the roots of the plants may get it easily,” explained Mother Nature. “By making those tunnels in every direction and bringing up the earth below to the surface, Grubby Gopher does the same thing. That is why I call him my little plowman. He loosens up the hard, packed earth and mixes the vegetable matter with it and so makes it easy for seeds to sprout and plants to grow.”

Pocket Gopher illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Then he must be one of the farmer’s best friends,” spoke up Happy Jack Squirrel.

Mother Nature shook her head. “He has been in the past,” she said. “He has done wonderful work in helping make the land fit for farming. However where land is being farmed he can be a bit of a challenge. You see he eats the crops the farmer tries to raise, and the new mounds he is all the time throwing up bury a lot of the young plants, and in the meadows make it very hard to use a mowing machine for cutting hay. Then Grubby gets into young orchards and cuts off all the tender roots of young trees. This kills them. You see he is fond of tender roots, seeds, stems of grass and grain, and is never happier than when he can find a field of potatoes.”

“Being such a worker, he has to have a great deal to eat. Then, too, he stores away a great deal for winter, for he doesn’t sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does. He even tunnels about under the snow. Sometimes he fills these little snow tunnels with the earth he brings up from below, and when the snow melts it leaves odd little earth ridges to show where the tunnels were.”

“Grubby is very neat in his habits and keeps his home and himself very clean. During the day he leaves one of his mounds open for a little while to let in fresh air. Then he closes it again. He doesn’t dare leave it open very long, for fear Shadow the Weasel or a certain big Snake called the Gopher Snake will find it and come in after him. Digger the Badger is the only one of his predators who can dig fast enough to dig him out, and at night, when he likes to come out for a little air or to cut grain and grass, he must always watch for Hooty the Owl. Old Man Coyote and members of the Hawk family are always looking for him by day, so you see he has plenty of predators, just like the rest of you.”

“He got the name Gopher because that comes from a word meaning honeycomb, and Grubby’s tunnels go in every direction until the ground is like honeycomb. He isn’t very social social and he is always ready to fight. On the plains he has done a great deal to make the soil fine and rich, as I have already told you, however on hillsides he does a great deal of harm. The water runs down his tunnels and washes away the soil.”

“Hello!” Mother Nature said with a start, ” Look who’s here! ”

There was a shuffling and rattling and Prickly Porky climbed up on an old stump. He was looking much out of sorts after his long walk.

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. How many animals can you think of that have “pockets”? Can you compare how humans use pockets to how animals use “pockets”? What is the same and what is different?
  2. What would it be like to spend most of your days underground like the Pocket Gopher? Can you imagine spending your days digging and tunneling and never seeing the sun or the moon? What would it feel like to not be impacted by the weather, seeing neither rain nor snow or experiencing the wind on your face?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 9 – Pika and Mountain Beaver


Chapter 9

Pika and Mountain Beaver


Johnny Chuck had now become as full of curiosity as Peter Rabbit. The discovery that he had a big cousin, Whistler the Marmot, living in the mountains of the Far West, had given Johnny something to think about. It seemed to Johnny such an odd place for a member of his family to live that he wanted to know more about it. So Johnny had a question all ready when Mother Nature began a new session the next morning.

“If you please, Mother Nature,” he said, “does my cousin, Whistler, have any neighbors up among those rocks where he lives?”

“He certainly does,” replied Mother Nature, nodding her head. “He has for a near neighbor one of the quaintest and most interesting little members of the big order to which you all belong. And do you all remember what that order is?” she asked.

“The order of Rodents,” Peter Rabbit piped up.

“Right you are, Peter,” replied Mother Nature, smiling at Peter. “ Now, this little neighbor of Whistler’s is called a Pika.”

Instantly Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare pricked up their long ears and became more interested. “If you please Mother Nature, who is this Pika? ” asked Jumper.

“He looks much like a small Rabbit, even though he is not, with short hind legs and rounded ears,” said Mother Nature. “Some folks call him Pika, some also call him a Cony or the Crying Hare. This is because he uses his voice a great deal, which is something no member of the Hare family really does. In size he is just about as big as one of your half-grown babies, Peter, so, you see, he really is a very little fellow. His coat is grayish-brown. His ears are of good size, although instead of being long they are round. He has small bright eyes. His legs are short, his hind legs being very little longer than his front ones. He has hair on the soles of his feet just like the members of the hare family.”

“What about his tail?” asked Peter Rabbit. You know Peter is very much interested in tails.

Mother Nature smiled. “Why he has less of one than you Peter,” she said. “That is, he hasn’t any that can be seen easily .”

“He lives way up among the rocks of the great mountains above where the trees grow and often is a very near neighbor to Whistler,” continued Mother Nature.

“I suppose that means that he makes his home down in under rocks, the same as Whistler does,” Johnny Chuck spoke up.

“Right,” replied Mother Nature. “He is such a little fellow that he can get through very narrow places, and he has his home and barns way down in among the rocks.”

“Barns!” exclaimed Happy Jack Squirrel. “Barns! What do you mean by barns?”

Mother Nature laughed. “I just call them barns,” she said, “because they are the places where he stores away his hay, just as Farmer Brown stores away his hay in his barn. I suppose you would call them storehouses.”

At the mention of hay, Peter Rabbit sat bolt upright and his eyes were wide open with astonishment. “Did you say hay?” he exclaimed. “Where under the sun does he get hay way up there, and what does he want of it?”

Pika illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

There was a twinkle in Mother Nature’s eyes as she replied, “He makes that hay just as you see Farmer Brown make hay every summer. It is what he lives on in the winter and in bad weather. Pika knows just as much about the proper way of making hay as Farmer Brown does. Even way up among the rocks there are places where grass and pea-vines and other green things grow. Pika lives on these in summer. And he is as wise and thrifty as any Squirrel, another way in which he differs from the Hare family. He cuts the vines when they are ready for cutting and spreads them out on the rocks to dry in the sun. He knows that if he should take them down into his barns while they are fresh and green they would sour and spoil; so he never stores them away until they are thoroughly dry. Then, of course, they are hay, for hay is nothing other than sun-dried grass cut before it has begun to die. When his hay is just as dry as it should be, he takes it down and stores it away in his barns, which are little caves down in among the rocks. There he has it for use in winter when there is no green food.”

“Pika is so nearly the color of the rocks that it takes sharp eyes to see him when he is sitting still. He has a funny little squeaking voice, and he uses it a great deal. It is a funny voice because it is hard to tell just where it comes from. It seems to come from nowhere in particular. Sometimes he can be heard squeaking way down in his home under the rocks. Like Johnny Chuck, he prefers to sleep at night and be abroad during the day. Because he is so small he must always be on the lookout for predators. At the first hint of danger he scampers to safety in among the rocks, and there he scolds whoever has frightened him. Pika really is the great little haymaker of the mountains of the Great West.”

“That haymaking is a pretty good idea of Pika’s,” remarked Peter Rabbit, scratching a long ear with a long hind foot.

“By the way,” said Mother Nature, “there is another haymaker out in those same great mountains of the Far West.”

“Who?” Peter, Johnny Chuck, and Happy Jack the Squirrel all said in the same breath.

“Stubtail the Mountain Beaver,” declared Mother Nature promptly.

“I know Paddy the Beaver,” Peter Rabbit responded, “and I suppose Stubtail is his cousin.”

Mother Nature shook her head. “No, actually” she said. “Stubtail and Paddy are no more closely related than the rest of you. Stubtail isn’t a Beaver at all. His proper name is Sewellel and sometimes he is called the Boomer, although most folks call him simply the Mountain Beaver.”

“Is it because he looks like Paddy the Beaver?” Striped Chipmunk asked.

“No,” replied Mother Nature. “He looks more like Jerry Muskrat than he does like Paddy. He is about Jerry’s size and looks very much as Jerry would if he had no tail.”

“Hasn’t he any tail at all?” asked Peter.

Mountain Beaver illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Yes, he has a little tail, a little stub of a tail, however it is so small that to look at him you would think he hadn’t any,” replied Mother Nature. “He is found out in the same mountains of the Far West where Whistler and Pika live, although instead of living way up high among the rocks he is at home down in the valleys where the ground is soft and the trees grow thickly. Stubtail has no use for rocks. He wants soft, wet ground where he can tunnel to his heart’s content. In this way Stubtail is very much like Yap Yap the Prairie Dog.”

“What is that?” asked Johnny Chuck quickly, for, you know, Yap Yap is Johnny’s cousin.

“In his social habits,” replied Mother Nature. “Stubtail isn’t fond of living alone. He wants company of his own kind. So wherever you find Stubtail you are likely to find many of his family. They like to go visiting back and forth. They make little paths between their homes and all about through the thick ferns, and they keep these little paths free and clear, so that they may run along them easily. Some of these little paths lead into long tunnels. These are made for safety. Usually the ground is so wet that there will be water running in the bottoms of these little tunnels.”

“What kind of a house does Stubtail have?” inquired Johnny Chuck interestedly.

“A hole in the ground,” replied Mother Nature. “It is dug where the ground is drier than where the runways are made. Mrs. Stubtail makes a nest of dried ferns and close by they build two or three storehouses, for Stubtail and Mrs. Stubtail are thrifty people.”

“I suppose he fills them with hay, for you said he is a haymaker,” remarked Happy Jack Squirrel, who is always interested in storehouses.

“Yes,” replied Mother Nature, “he puts hay in them. He cuts grasses, ferns, pea-vines and other green plants and carries them in little bundles to the entrance to his tunnel. There he piles them on sticks so as to keep them off he damp ground and so that the air can help dry them out. When they are dry, he takes them inside and stores them away. He also stores other things. He likes the roots of ferns. He cuts tender, young twigs from bushes and stores away some of these. He is fond of bark. In winter he is quite as active as in summer and tunnels about under the snow. Then he sometimes has a habit like Peter Rabbit of gnawing tree bark all around as high up as he can reach.”

“Can he climb trees?” asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“Just about as much as Johnny Chuck can,” replied Mother Nature. “Sometimes he climbs up in low bushes or in small, low-branching trees to cut off tender shoots, although he doesn’t do much of this sort of thing. His home is the ground. He is most active at night and also where undisturbed he is out more or less during the day. When he wants to cut off a twig he sits up like a Squirrel and holds the twig in his hands while he bites it off with his sharp teeth.”

“You didn’t tell us what color his coat is,” said Peter Rabbit.

“His coat is brown, much the color of Jerry Muskrat’s, although his fur is not nearly so soft and fine,” Mother Nature noted.

“I suppose he has predators just as the rest of us four-legged folks have,” said Peter.

“Yes, of course,” replied Mother Nature. “All the four-legged folks have predators, and most big ones too, for that matter. King Eagle is one and Yowler the Bob Cat is another. They are always watching for Stubtail. That is why he digs so many tunnels. He can travel under the ground then.”

“My goodness, how time flies! I have much to do and must be on my way. Scamper home, all of you, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What do you know about farmers “making hay”? What is the difference between grass and hay? Do you know any other animals that eat hay besides the Pika and the Mountain Beaver?
  2. Are there rocky areas near to where you live? If so, what animals do you know of that live in that area? Do they have traits like the Pika and Mountain Beaver? If yes, what are they? If no, how are they different?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


P.L.A.Y. + Thornton Burgess


P.L.A.Y. and Thornton Burgess:

Nature Storytellers Past + Present


Thornton W. Burgess (1874-1965), author and longtime resident of Massachusetts, is best known for his 50 years of writing about nature conservation through children’s literature. He wrote over 150 books and thousands of daily newspaper columns bringing the forest and fauna to life for families across the United States and around the world over 100 years ago.

In so many of his books about the Green Forest, often featuring Peter Rabbit as the reader’s guide, Burgess was able to share with great detail all the wonderful magical moments Mother Nature provided in his local New England landscape. Through his nature story telling he was able to weave in factual information and his own personal observations from time spent outdoors. This was beneficial by informing his audience, both parents and children, as to what they could find just by stepping out their own door and encouraging them to immerse in their own spot of nature. This has allowed his books to be timeless and of great value even to this day.

However over the past ten years I’ve been revisiting his story books, especially looking at how the characters interact and treat one another, and knowing in my heart as a mother and as a human walking this earth a change was needed.

So for the past few years P.L.A.Y. has taken on the task to reinvent Thornton Burgess’ works for the 21st century family. Many of his stories are readily available in the public domain to be used by creatives and artists and for general public use. P.L.A.Y. has maintained the intention to keep all of the wonder and value of his nature stories intact AND to replace some of his language with new phrasing to reflect the way we’d like to see people being and connecting in this world with a primary focus on loving-kindness and compassionate communication.

For the most part Thornton Burgess’ descriptions of plants, landscape features, and basic animal behaviors has not changed in the past 100+ years since he first wrote these works. What has, and continues to change, is what is considered acceptable language and behaviors for human interactions. And since Burgess used anthropomorphizing, attributing human characteristics or behaviors to animals, as a mechanism to get messages across to the reader it is important to take a closer look at how this was written in the past and see how it could be adjusted to still be relevant now and for future generations.

In the past Thornton Burgess often had his animal characters shame and blame one another as they went about their day in the Green Forest and Green Meadow. There were put downs, name calling, bullying, and derogatory remarks cast at one another. And sometimes a characters name or description would negatively label them, for example as a thief or robber, when they were simply acting on natural instinct. For me, this does not model the change we’d like to see in this world and certainly doesn’t represent the behaviors we’d like to experience with each other. And since the intended audience of these stories is primarily children and families I felt strongly that there needed to be a change.

One example of how P.L.A.Y. has adapted these stories for present day audiences is by applying compassionate communication principles in the dialog between characters so that you will no longer hear Peter Rabbit making fun of Old Man Toad or tossing put downs at Jumper the Hare and instead Peter Rabbit gets curious and asks questions whenever he becomes troubled or frustrated or afraid.

Another example of how P.L.A.Y. has modified these stories is by apply loving-kindness concepts such as “treat others how you’d like to be treated”. These values are all woven into the story in such a way to encourage the audience to put these into practice in their own lives with family, friends, and neighbors and to experience the positive ripple effects daily.

The P.L.A.Y. annotated versions of these Burgess stories also have added bonus content for curious minds including prompts and questions to explore ideas further, lists of topic resources, and photos from locations in New England reflecting the story landscape and animal habitats.

P.L.A.Y.‘s annotated series of Burgess’ stories include free versions found here online: Paddy the Beaver, Old Man Toad, Lightfoot the Deer, Burgess Bird Book, Burgess Animal Book, or they may be purchased in book format HERE.

P.L.A.Y. intends to add future nature titles to this collection annually so be sure to check back often for more magical moments!

I have much gratitude for these century old writings created by Thornton Burgess and the focus on connecting families to nature through story telling. I also have much gratitude for the opportunity to bring this work forward with adaptations suitable for the next generation of families engaging both their curiosity for nature and connection to wholehearted living through encouraging compassionate communication and loving-kindness.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!