Toad BOOK LOOK #9: Chapter 9 Read Aloud of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)


New VIDEO BONUS of CHAPTER 9!

FREE! Read Aloud by Karen creator of P.L.A.Y. of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (annotated)  on Pinterest HERE.


Old Mr. Toad’s baby tadpoles have sprouted legs!


~ BOOK LOOK ~

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated): A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book by Karen L. Willard purchase HERE.


Author Insight:

My love of children’s literature and being out in nature all came creatively together when I chanced upon the 100+ year old Thornton Burgess books with so many of his stories written in New England nature settings. The animal characters have their adventures throughout the Green Forest in plenty of familiar places like: Peter Rabbit with his home in the Old Briar-patch, Jenny Wren building a nest in the Old Orchard, and Old Mr. Toad visiting the Smiling Pool created by the nearby Laughing Brook. These nature scenes are found throughout the area I live in too and I visit these magical peaceful places daily to immerse in a “sense of wonder” and to make creative connections.


If you’d like to visit spaces like these in nature I’ve got great news, simply follow these two steps:

  1. Step out your door and get to know your surrounding nature spots be it in your yard or neighborhood, local community, bordering towns, or beyond. There are so many hidden wonders to explore and adventures to be had throughout the seasons. Set aside some P.L.A.Y. time to connect with nature and be sure to bring along your curious Capkin too!
  2. Try a copy of this nature story activity book for inspiration and to ignite your naturally creative imagination. Odds are once you read this story you and your family will be eager to get out and explore all the magical spaces in “your neck-of-the-woods”.

More Author Insights:

I have started re-writing many books in the Thornton Burgess nature series as they are now available for use in the public domain beginning with The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad and The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver as well as the most recent FREE ONLINE edition of The Burgess Bird Book for Children with both chapter-by-chapter story and activities unfolding HERE on P.L.A.Y..

I have updated these stories for the 21st century family by keeping the same old nature settings and some of the same story line and giving the characters a new opportunity to model compassionate communication and loving kindness. 

I have also provided bonus materials to interact with the book:

  • Nature photos taken here in New England
  • Spaces for the reader to illustrate each chapter as they creatively see it
  • Curious question prompts for conversations with friends and family
  • Resources online and book suggestions to continue the adventure

Gifting this book to a kiddo in your life, a family in your neighborhood, or simply passing P.L.A.Y. forward are ways to keep nature connections alive and well.

Thanks for sharing and caring!!!

❤ ❤ ❤

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 36 – European Starling + Cedar Waxwing


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



 CHAPTER 36 – A Stranger and a Dandy


Butcher the Shrike was not the only newcomer in the Old Orchard. There was another stranger who, Peter Rabbit soon discovered, was looked on with some suspicion by all the other birds of the Old Orchard. The first time Peter saw him, he was walking about on the ground some distance off. He didn’t hop he rather walked. The way he carried himself and his movements as he walked made Peter think of Creaker the Grackle. In fact, Peter mistook him for Creaker. That was because he didn’t really look at him. If he had he would have seen at once that the stranger was smaller than Creaker.

Presently the stranger flew up in a tree and Peter saw that his tail was little more than half as long as that of Creaker. At once it came over Peter that this was a stranger to him, and of course his curiosity was aroused. He didn’t have any doubt whatever that this was a member of the Blackbird family, although which one it could be he hadn’t the least idea. “Jenny Wren will know,” thought Peter and scampered off to check-in with her.

“Who is that new member of the Blackbird family who has come to live in the Old Orchard?” Peter asked as soon as he found Jenny Wren.

“Tut, tut, tut!” said Jenny. “That fellow isn’t a member of the Blackbird family at all as he isn’t even black. Go over there and take a good look at him; then come back and tell me what you think.”


Beautiful Old Orchard tree in bloom that has grown very tall and is a favored perch for the birds to overlook the Green Meadow.


Jenny turned her back on Peter and went looking for worms. There being nothing else to do, Peter hopped over where he could get a good look at the stranger. The sun was shining full on him and for the most part he was very dark green. At least, that is what Peter thought at first glance. Then, as the stranger moved, he seemed to be a rich purple in places. In short he changed color as he turned. His feathers were iridescent like those of Creaker the Grackle. All over he was speckled with tiny light spots. Underneath he was dark brownish-gray. His wings and tail were of the same color, with little touches of buff. His rather large bill was yellow.

Peter hurried back to Jenny Wren. “You were right, Jenny Wren; he isn’t a member of the Blackbird family,” confessed Peter. “Who is he?”

“He is Speckles the Starling,” replied Jenny. “He comes from across the ocean the same as Billy the House Sparrow. He has taken up house-keeping in one of the old homes of Yellow Wing the Flicker, here in the Old Orchard. Did you notice that yellow bill of his?”

“I certainly did,” Peter confirmed with a nod.

“Well, there’s a funny thing about that bill,” replied Jenny. “In winter it turns almost black. Most of us wear a different colored suit in winter, and our bills remain the same.”

“I’ve seen him picking up worms and grubs and he likes grain,” said Jenny. “If his family becomes very numerous though they will eat more of Farmer Brown’s grain than they will pay for by the worms and bugs they destroy. Well hello! There’s Dandy the Waxwing and his friends.”

A flock of modestly dressed yet rather distinguished looking feathered folks had alighted in a cherry tree and promptly began to help themselves to Farmer Brown’s cherries. They were about the size of Winsome Bluebird, and did not look in the least like him, for they were dressed mostly in a beautiful, rich, soft grayish-brown. Across the end of each tail was a yellow band. On each, the forehead, chin and a line through each eye was velvety-black. Each wore a very stylish pointed cap, and on the wings of most of them were little spots of red which looked like sealing wax, and from which they get the name of Waxwings.


Cedar Waxwing by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


As Peter watched them he began to wonder if Farmer Brown would have any cherries left. Peter himself can do pretty well in the matter of stuffing his stomach, and even he marveled at the way those birds put the cherries out of sight. It was quite clear to him why they are often called Cherrybirds.

“If they stay long, Farmer Brown won’t have any cherries left,” remarked Peter.

“Don’t worry,” replied Jenny Wren. “They won’t stay long. I don’t know anybody equal to them for roaming about. Here are most of us with families to tend to and Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird with a second family and Mr. and Mrs. Robin with a second set of eggs, while those folks haven’t even begun to think about housekeeping yet. They certainly do like those cherries, and I guess Farmer Brown can stand the loss of what they eat. He may have fewer cherries, and he’ll also have more apples because of them.”

“How’s that?” asked Peter.

“Well,” replied Jenny Wren, “they were over here a while ago when those little green cankerworms threatened to eat up the whole orchard, and they stuffed themselves on those worms just the same as they are stuffing themselves on cherries now. They are very fond of small fruits and most of those they eat are the wild kind which are of no use at all to Farmer Brown or anybody else. Now just look at that performance, will you?”

There were five of the Waxwings and they were now seated side by side on a branch of the cherry tree. One of them had a plump cherry which he passed to the next one. This one passed it on to the next, and so it went to the end of the row and halfway back before it was finally eaten. Peter laughed right out. “Never in my life have I seen such politeness,” he said.

“Oh, I don’t believe it was politeness at all,” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “I guess if you got at the truth of the matter you would find that each one was stuffed so full that he thought he didn’t have room for that cherry and so passed it along.”

“Well, I think that was politeness just the same,” pronounced Peter. “The first one might have dropped the cherry if he couldn’t eat it instead of passing it along.” And just then the Waxwings flew away.

It was the very middle of the summer before Peter Rabbit again saw Dandy the Waxwing. Quite by chance he discovered Dandy sitting on the tip top of an evergreen tree, as if on guard. He was on guard, for in that tree was his nest, though Peter didn’t know it at the time. In fact, it was so late in the summer that most of Peter’s friends were through nesting and he had quite lost interest in nests. Presently Dandy flew down to a lower branch and there he was joined by Mrs. Waxwing. Then Peter was treated to one of the prettiest sights he ever had seen. They rubbed their bills together as if kissing. They smoothed each other’s feathers and altogether were a perfect picture of two little lovebirds. Peter couldn’t think of another couple who appeared quite so gentle and loving.

Late in the fall Peter saw Mr. and Mrs. Waxwing and their family all together. They were in a cedar tree and were picking off and eating the cedar berries as busily as the five Waxwings had picked Farmer Brown’s cherries in the early summer. Peter didn’t know that because of their fondness for cedar berries the Waxwings were often called Cedar Waxwings.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Cedar Waxwing (p12).

FYI -This coloring book is an excellent companion for this bird story series with most of the 50 birds represented as characters throughout the chapters.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 35 – Loggerhead Shrike + Hummingbird


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 35 – A Butcher and a Hummer


Not far from the Old Orchard grew a thorn tree which Peter Rabbit often passed. He never had paid particular attention to it. One morning he stopped to rest under it. Happening to look up, he saw a most astonishing thing. Fastened on the sharp thorns of one of the branches were three big grasshoppers, a big moth, two big caterpillars, a lizard, a small mouse and a young House Sparrow. Peter thought he must be seeing things. He couldn’t imagine how those creatures could have become fastened on those long sharp thorns. Somehow it gave him an uncomfortable feeling and he hurried on to the Old Orchard, to tell someone of the strange thing he had seen in the thorn tree.

As he entered the Old Orchard in the far corner he saw Johnny Chuck sitting on his doorstep and hurried over to tell him the strange news. Johnny listened until Peter was through, then told him quite frankly that never had he heard of such a thing.

Meanwhile, Skimmer the Swallow lived in a hole in a tree just above the entrance to Johnny Chuck’s house. He had been sitting where he could hear all that Peter had said.

“Skimmer could you explain this?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“Actually,” replied Skimmer, “Peter just happened to find the storehouse of Butcher the Loggerhead Shrike. It is a very unpleasant sight, however one must give Butcher credit for being smart enough to lay up a store of food when it is plentiful.”

“And who is Butcher the Shrike?” inquired Peter. “He’s a new one to me.”


Loggerhead Shrike by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“He’s new to this location,” replied Skimmer, “and you probably haven’t noticed him. I’ve seen him in the South often. There he is now, on the tip top of that tree over yonder.”

Peter and Johnny looked eagerly. They saw a bird who at first glance appeared not unlike Mocker the Mockingbird. He was dressed all in black, gray and white. When he turned his head they noticed a black stripe across the side of his face and that the tip of his bill was hooked. These are enough to make them forget that otherwise he was like Mocker. While they were watching him he flew down into the grass and picked up a grasshopper. Then he flew with a steady, even flight, only a little above the ground, for some distance, suddenly shooting up and returning to the perch where they had first seen him. There he ate the grasshopper and resumed his watch for something else to catch.

“He certainly has keen eyes,” said Skimmer admiringly. “He must have seen that grasshopper way over there in the grass before he started after it, for he flew straight there. He doesn’t waste time and energy hunting aimlessly. He sits on a high perch and watches until he sees something he wants. Many times I’ve seen him sitting on top of a telephone pole. I understand that Billy the House Sparrow has become terribly nervous since the arrival of Butcher. He is particularly fond
of House Sparrows. I presume it was one of Billy’s children you saw in the thorn tree, Peter. I hope he’ll frighten Billy into leaving the Old Orchard as it would be a good thing for the rest of us.”

“I still don’t understand yet why he fastens his food on those long thorns,” said Peter.

“For two reasons,” replied Skimmer. “When he catches more grasshoppers and other insects than he can eat, he sticks them on those thorns so that later he may be sure of a good meal especially if it happens there are no more to be caught when he is hungry. Mice, sparrows, and things too big for him to swallow he sticks on the thorns so that he can pull them to pieces easier. You see his feet and claws are not big and stout enough to hold his food while he tears them to pieces with his hooked bill. Sometimes, instead of sticking them on thorns, he sticks them on the barbed wire of a fence and sometimes he wedges them into the fork of two branches.”

“Does he eat many birds?” asked Peter.

“Not many,” replied Skimmer, “and most of those he does eat are House Sparrows. The rest of us have learned to keep out of his way. He feeds mostly on insects, worms and caterpillars, and he is very fond of mice and he catches a good many. He is a good deal like Killee the Sparrow
Hawk in this respect. Hey! Now what’s happened?”

A great commotion had broken out not far away in the Old Orchard. Instantly Skimmer flew over to see what it was all about and Peter followed. He got there just in time to see Chatterer the Red Squirrel dodging around the trunk of a tree, first on one side, then on the other, to avoid the sharp bills of the angry feathered folk who had discovered him trying to rob a nest of its young.

Peter chuckled. “Chatterer is getting just what is due him, I guess,” he muttered. “It reminds me of the time I got into a Yellow Jacket’s nest. My,those birds are mad!”


Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Chatterer continued to dodge from side to side of the tree while the birds darted down at him, all shrieking at the top of their voices. Finally Chatterer saw his chance to run for the old stone wall. Only one bird was quick enough to catch up with him and that one was such a tiny fellow that he seemed hardly bigger than a big insect. It was Hummer the Hummingbird. He followed Chatterer clear to the old stone wall. A moment later Peter heard a humming noise just over his head and looked up to see Hummer himself alight on a twig, where he squeaked excitedly for a few minutes.

Often Peter had seen Hummer darting about from flower to flower and holding himself still in mid-air in front of each as he thrust his long bill into the heart of the blossom to get the tiny insects there and the sweet juices he is so fond of. This was the first time Peter had ever seen Hummer sitting still. He was such a mite of a thing that it was hard to realize that he was a bird. His back was a bright, shining green. His wings and tail were brownish with a purplish tinge. Underneath he was whitish. And his throat was a wonderful ruby-red that glistened and shone in the sun like a jewel.

Hummer lifted one wing and with his long needle like bill smoothed the feathers under it. Then he darted out into the air, his wings moving so fast that Peter couldn’t see them at all. Although he couldn’t see them he could hear them. You see they moved so fast that they made a sound very like the humming of Bumble the Bee. It is because of this that he is called the Hummingbird. A few minutes later he was back again and now he was joined by Mrs. Hummingbird. She was dressed very much like Hummer although without the ruby throat. She stopped only a minute or two, then darted over to what looked for all the world like a tiny cup of moss. It was their nest.

Just then Jenny Wren came along, and being quite worn out with the work of feeding her seven babies, she was content to rest for a few moments and chat. Peter told her what he had discovered about Hummer.

“Yes, Peter,” said Jenny in agreement, “that is the daintiest nest in the Old Orchard. It is made of plant down and covered on the outside with bits of that gray moss like stuff that grows on the bark of the trees called lichens. That is what makes that nest look like nothing more than a knot on the branch. Chatterer made a big mistake when he visited this tree. Hummer may be a tiny fellow however he isn’t afraid of anybody under the sun. That bill of his is so sharp and he is so quick that few folks ever bother him more than once. Why, there isn’t a single member of the Hawk family that Hummer won’t attack.”

“Does he go very far south for the winter?” asked Peter. “He is such a tiny fellow I don’t see how he can stand a very long journey.”

“Distance doesn’t bother Hummer any,” said Jenny Wren. “You needn’t worry about those wings of his. He goes clear down to South America. He has ever so many relatives down there. You ought to see his babies when they first hatch out. They are no bigger than bees. And they certainly do grow fast. Why, they are flying three weeks from the time they hatch. I’m glad I don’t have to pump food down the throats of my youngsters the way Mrs. Hummingbird has to down hers.”

Peter looked perplexed. “What do you mean by pumping food down their throats?” he asked.

“Mrs. Hummingbird sticks her bill right down their throats and then pumps up the food she has already swallowed,” assured Jenny. “I guess it is a good thing that the babies have short bills.”

“Do they?” asked Peter, opening his eyes very wide with surprise.

“Yes,” replied Jenny. “When they hatch out they have short bills, it doesn’t take them a great while to grow long.”

“How many babies does Mrs. Hummingbird usually have?” asked Peter.

“Just two,” replied Jenny, “that’s all that nest will hold ”. And with a jerk of her tail off flew Jenny, and Peter hurried back to tell Johnny Chuck all he had found out about Hummer the Hummingbird.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Loggerhead Shrike
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Feeders for Hummingbirds
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W32 Ruby-throated Hummingbird).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Hummingbird (p. 115 -117)  in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (p37).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on page 21.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 34 – Mourning Dove + Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 34 – Mourner the Dove and Cuckoo


A long lane leads from Farmer Brown’s barnyard down to his cornfield on the Green Meadows. It happened that very early one morning Peter Rabbit decided to run down that long lane to see what he might see. Now at a certain place beside that long lane was a gravelly bank into which Farmer Brown had dug for gravel to put on the roadway up near his house. As Peter was scampering past this place where Farmer Brown had dug he caught sight of some one very busy. Peter stopped short, then sat up to stare.

It was Mourner the Dove whom Peter saw, an old friend of whom Peter is very fond. His body was a little bigger than that of Welcome Robin, and his long slender neck, and longer tail and wings made him appear considerably larger. In shape he reminded Peter at once of the Pigeons up at Farmer Brown’s. His back was grayish-brown, varying to bluish-gray. The crown and upper parts of his head were bluish-gray. His breast was reddish-buff, shading down into a soft buff. His bill was black and his feet red. The two middle feathers of his tail were longest and of the color of his back. The other feathers were slate-gray with little black bands and tipped with white. On his wings were a few scattered black spots. Just under each ear was a black spot. However, it was the sides of his slender neck which were the most beautiful part of Mourner. When untouched by the Jolly Little Sunbeams the neck feathers appeared to be in color very like his breast, however the moment they were touched by the Jolly Little Sunbeams they seemed to be constantly changing, which is also known as iridescence.

However, it was not his appearance which made Peter stare, it was what he was doing. He was walking about and every now and then picking up something quite as if he were getting his breakfast in that gravel pit, and Peter couldn’t imagine anything good to eat down there. He knew that there were not even worms there. Besides, Mourner is not fond of worms as he lives almost altogether on seeds and many kinds of grains. So Peter was puzzled.


Mourning Dove by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Hello, Mourner!” he cried. “What under the sun are you doing in there? Are you getting your breakfast?”

“Hardly, Peter,” cooed Mourner in the softest of voices. “I’ve had my breakfast and now I’m picking up a little gravel for my digestion.” He picked up a tiny pebble and swallowed it.

“Well, of all things!” cried Peter. “The idea of thinking that gravel is going to help your digestion. I should say the chances are that it will work just the other way.”

Mourner laughed. It was the softest of little cooing laughs, very pleasant to hear. “I haven’t the least doubt that a breakfast of gravel would give you the worst kind of a stomach ache. However, you know I eat grain and hard seeds and not having any teeth I have to swallow them whole. One part of my stomach is called a gizzard and its duty is to grind and crush my food so that it may be digested. Tiny pebbles and gravel help grind the food and so aid digestion. I think I’ve got enough now for this morning, and it is time for a dust bath. There is a dusty spot over in the lane where I take a dust bath every day.”

“If you don’t mind,” said Peter, “I’ll go with you.”

Mourner said he didn’t mind, so Peter followed him over to the dusty place in the long lane. There Mourner was joined by Mrs. Dove, who was dressed very much like him. While they dusted themselves they chatted with Peter.

“I see you on the ground so much that I’ve often wondered if you build your nest on the ground,” said Peter.

“Oh no,” replied Mourner. “Mrs. Dove builds in a tree, usually not very far above the ground. Now if you’ll excuse us we must get back home. Mrs. Dove has two eggs to sit on and while she is sitting I like to be close at hand to keep her company and sing to her.”

The Doves shook the loose dust from their feathers and flew away. Peter watched to see where they went and lost sight of them behind some trees. Then he decided to run up to the Old Orchard. There he found Jenny and Mr. Wren as busy as ever feeding that growing family of theirs. Jenny could not stop an instant to chat. Peter was so brimful of what he had found out about Mr. and Mrs. Dove that he just had to tell some one. He heard Kitty the Catbird meowing among the bushes along the old stone wall, so hurried over to look for him. As soon as he found him Peter began to tell what he had learned about Mourner the Dove.

“Yes, I know all about Mourner and his wife,” said Kitty. “Have you seen their nest?”

Peter shook his head. “No,” he said, “I haven’t. What is it like?”

“It is made of a few little sticks,” said Kitty. “How they hold together is more than I can understand. I guess it is a good thing that Mrs. Dove doesn’t lay more than two eggs, and it’s a wonder to me that those two stay in the nest. Listen! There’s Mourner’s voice now. For one who is so happy he certainly does have the most mournful sounding voice. To hear him you’d think he was sorrowful instead of happy.”

“That’s true,” replied Peter, “and yet I like to hear him just the same. Hello! Who’s that?”

From one of the trees in the Old Orchard sounded a long, clear, “Kow-kow-kow-kow-kow-kow!” It was quite unlike any voice Peter had heard that spring.

“That’s Cuckoo,” said Kitty.

“Oh, I had forgotten the sound of his voice,” said Peter. “Tell me, Kitty, is it true that Mrs. Cuckoo is no better than Sally the Cowbird and goes about laying her eggs in the nests of other birds?”

“There isn’t a word of truth in it,” declared Kitty emphatically. “She builds a nest and she looks after her own children. As a matter of fact, they are mighty useful birds. Farmer Brown ought to be tickled to death that Mr. and Mrs. Cuckoo have come back to the Old Orchard this year.”

“Why?” inquired Peter.

“Do you see that cobwebby nest with all those hairy caterpillars on it and around it up in that tree?” asked Kitty.

Peter replied that he did and that he had seen a great many nests just like it, and had noticed how the caterpillars ate all the leaves near them.

“I’ll venture to say that you won’t see very many leaves eaten around that nest,” replied Kitty. “Those are called tent caterpillars, and they do an awful lot of damage. I can’t bear them myself because they are so hairy, and very few birds will touch them. Cuckoo likes them though. There he comes now, just watch him.”

A long, slim Dove like looking bird alighted close to the caterpillar’s nest. Above he was brownish-gray with just a little greenish tinge. Beneath he was white. His wings were reddish-brown. His tail was a little longer than that of Mourner the Dove. The outer feathers were black tipped with white, while the middle feathers were the color of his back. The upper half of his bill was black, and the under half was yellow, and from this he is called the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.


Old stone wall


Cuckoo made no sound and began to pick off the hairy caterpillars and swallow them. When he had eaten all those in sight he made holes in the silken web of the nest and picked out the caterpillars that were inside. Finally, having eaten his fill, he flew off as silently as he had come and disappeared among the bushes farther along the old stone wall. A moment later they heard his voice, “Kow-kow-how-kow-kow-kow-kow-kow!”

“I suppose some folks would think that it is going to rain,” remarked Kitty the Catbird. “They have the silly notion that Cuckoo only calls just before rain, and so they call him the Rain Crow. That isn’t
so at all. Well, Peter, I guess I’ve chatted enough for one morning. I must go see how Mrs. Catbird is getting along.”

Kitty disappeared and Peter, having no one to talk to, decided that the best thing he could do would be to go home to the dear Old Briar-patch.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawing of a Mourning Dove (p28).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Mourning Dove on page 9.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 33 – Purple Finch + Goldfinch


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 33 – A Royal Dresser and a Late Nester


Jenny and Mr. Wren were busy. If there were any busier little folks anywhere Peter Rabbit couldn’t imagine who they could be. You see, everyone of those seven eggs in the Wren nest had hatched, and seven mouths are a lot to feed, especially when every morsel of food must be hunted for and carried from a distance. There was little time for chatting now. Just as soon as it was light enough to see Jenny and Mr. Wren began feeding those always hungry babies, and they kept at it with hardly time for an occasional mouthful themselves, until the Dark Shadows came creeping out from the Purple Hills. Wren babies, like all other bird babies, grow very fast, and that means that each one of them must have a great deal of food every day. Each one of them often ate its own weight in food in a day and all their food had to be hunted for and when found carried back and put into the gaping little mouths. Hardly would Jenny Wren disappear in the little round doorway of her home with a caterpillar in her bill than she would hop out again, and Mr. Wren would take her place with a spider or a fly and then hurry away for something more.

Peter tried to keep count of the number of times they came and went and soon gave it up. He began to wonder where all the worms and bugs and spiders came from, and gradually he came to have a great deal of respect for eyes sharp enough to find them so quickly. So at last Peter gave up the idea of trying to find out from Jenny certain things he wanted to know, and hopped off to look for some one who was less busy. He had gone only a short distance when his attention was caught by a song so sweet and so full of little trills that he first stopped to listen, then went to look for the singer.


Tiny caterpillar camouflaged on the forest floor is dinner for a baby wren.


It didn’t take long to find him, for he was sitting on the very tip top of a fir tree in Farmer Brown’s yard. Peter didn’t dare go over there, for already it was broad daylight, and he had about made up his mind that he would have to content himself with just listening to that sweet singer when the latter flew over in the Old Orchard and alighted just over Peter’s head. “Hello, Peter!” he cried.

“Hello, Linnet!” cried Peter. “I was wondering who it could be who was singing like that. I ought to have known, you see though it has been so long since I’ve heard you sing that I couldn’t just remember your song. I’m so glad you came over here for I’m eager to talk to somebody.”

Linnet the Purple Finch, for this is who it was, laughed right out. “I see you’re still the same old Peter,” said he. “I suppose you’re just as full of curiosity as ever and just as full of questions. Well, here I am, so what shall we talk about?”

“You,” replied Peter. “Lately I’ve found out so many surprising things about my feathered friends that I want to know more. I’m trying to get it straight in my head who is related to who, and I’ve found out some things which have begun to make me feel that I know very little about my feathered neighbors. It’s getting so that I don’t dare to even guess who a person’s relatives are. And what family do you belong to Linnet?”

Linnet flew down a little nearer to Peter. “Look me over, Peter,” he said with twinkling eyes. “See if you can tell for yourself.”

Peter stared solemnly at Linnet. He saw a bird of Sparrow size most of whose body was a rose-red, brightest on the head, darkest on the back, and palest on the breast. Underneath he was whitish. His wings and tail were brownish, the outer parts of the feathers edged with rose-red. His bill was short and stout.

Before Peter could reply, Mrs. Finch appeared. There wasn’t so much as a touch of that beautiful rose-red about her. Her grayish-brown back was streaked with black, and her white breast and sides were spotted and streaked with brown. If Peter hadn’t seen her with Linnet he certainly would have taken her for a Sparrow. She looked so much like one that he ventured to say, “I guess you belong to the Sparrow family.”


Goldfinch by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“That’s pretty close, Peter.” declared Linnet. “We belong to the Finch branch of the family, which makes the Sparrows own cousins to us. Folks may get Mrs. Finch mixed with some of our Sparrow cousins, however they never can mistake me. There isn’t anybody else my size with a rose-red coat like mine. If you can’t remember my song, you can always tell me by the color of my coat. Hello! Here comes Cousin Chicoree. Did you ever see a happier fellow than he is? I’ll venture to say that he has been having such a good time that he hasn’t even yet thought of building a nest, and here half the people of the Old Orchard have grown families. I’ve a nest and eggs myself, however that fellow is just roaming about having a good time. Isn’t that so, Chicoree?”

“Isn’t what so?” asked Chicoree the Goldfinch, perching very near to where Linnet was sitting.

“Isn’t it true that you haven’t even begun thinking about a nest?” repeated Linnet. Chicoree flew down in the grass almost under Peter’s nose and began to pull apart a dandelion which had gone to seed. He snipped the seeds from the soft down to which they were attached and didn’t say a word till he was quite through. Then he flew up in the tree near Linnet, and while he dressed his feathers, answered Linnet’s question.


Curious Capkin watching a flower go to seed – just right for a goldfinch? maybe!


“It’s quite true,” he said. “For me there’s time enough to think about nest building and household cares later. Mrs. Goldfinch and I will begin to think about them about the first of July. Meanwhile we are making the most of this beautiful season to roam about and have a good time. For one thing we like thistledown to line our nest, and there isn’t any thistledown yet. Then, there is no sense in raising a family until there is plenty of the right kind of food, and you know we Goldfinches live  mostly on seeds. I’ll venture to say that we are the greatest seed eaters anywhere around. Of course when the babies are small they have to have soft food, and one can find plenty of worms and bugs any time during the summer. Just as soon as the children are big enough to look for their own food they need seeds, so there is no sense in trying to raise a family until there are plenty of seeds for them when needed. How do you like my summer suit, Peter?”

“It’s beautiful,” declared Peter. “I wouldn’t know you for the same bird I see so often in the late fall and sometimes in the winter. I don’t know of anybody who makes a more complete change. That black cap certainly is very smart and becoming.”

Chicoree cocked his head on one side, the better to show off that black cap. The rest of his head and his whole body were bright yellow. His wings were black with two white bars on each. His tail also was black, with some white on it. In size he was a little smaller than Linnet. If Peter had known anything about Canaries, which of course he didn’t, because Canaries are always kept in cages, he would have understood why Chicoree the Goldfinch is often called the Wild Canary.

Mrs. Goldfinch now joined her mate and it was plain to see that she admired him quite as much as did Peter. Her wings and tail were much like his but were more brownish than black. She wore no cap at all and her back and head were a grayish-brown with an olive tinge. Underneath she was lighter, with a tinge of yellow. As Peter recalled Chicoree’s winter suit, it was very much like that now worn by Mrs. Goldfinch, save that his wings and tail were as they now appeared.

Chicoree kept up a continual happy twittering, breaking out every few moments into song. It was clear that he was fairly bubbling over with joy.

“Are you a member of the same family as Linnet the Purple Finch?” asked Peter.

“Yes, we do belong to the same family,” answered Chicoree, “and now I must go over to the Old Pasture to see how the thistles are coming on.”

Away he flew calling, “Chic-o-ree, per-chic-o-ree, chic-o-ree!” and Mrs. Goldfinch followed. As they flew, they rose and fell in the air in very much the same way that Yellow Wing the Flicker does.

“I’d know them just by that, even if Chicoree didn’t keep calling his own name,” thought Peter out loud. “It’s funny how they often stay around all winter yet are among the last of all the birds to set up housekeeping. As I once said to Jenny Wren, birds certainly are funny creatures.”

“Tut, tut, tut! It’s no such thing, Peter Rabbit. It’s no such thing,” said Jenny Wren as she flew past Peter on her way to hunt for another worm for her hungry babies.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Purple Finch
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Goldfinch
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Goldfinches at bird feeder – molting
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W70 Purple Finch).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both Goldfinch (p. 53-57)  in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawing of a Goldfinch (p19).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Purple Finch on page 12 and an American Goldfinch on page 16.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Toad BOOK LOOK #7: More Activities + The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)

 


 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~


The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated):

A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book 

by Karen L. Willard

Join Peter Rabbit and friends on adventures discovering all about Old Mr. Toad and his days spent in and out of the water!

See sample story pages + purchase HERE

More Tadpoles + Toads in motion at PINTEREST HERE.


Karen’s P.L.A.Y.ful preview & P.L.A.Y.-filled activity suggestions.


P.L.A.Y.ful preview (short):

Toad Tales for the Young and Young at Heart

Singing at the Smiling Pool Playground

Old Mr. Toad’s Odd Tongue

P.L.A.Y.-filled companion activity adventure suggestions (long):

  • Challenge: Read this lively story of Old Mr. Toad’s adventures with his friends and illustrate each chapter with your one-of-a-kind super special drawings.
  • Super Challenge: Using the black and white photos in this P.L.A.Y. book and color photos on this website see if you can discover Old Mr. Toad and his tadpoles and toadlets outdoors near to where you live in late spring and throughout the summer. Remember – toads lay egg strands and frogs lay egg clusters!
  • Super-Duper Challenge: Visit Pinterest to see videos of the Toads in action HERE.

Share the smiles by emailing or snail mailing your original drawings of Old Mr. Toad’s adventures to Karen at P.L.A.Y. and perhaps you’ll see them posted up on P.L.A.Y. to pass the fun forward!


Capkins LOVE to be read nature stories AND to P.L.A.Y. outdoors.

❤ ❤ ❤

These TOAD-ally awesome books are a highly recommended way to extend your P.L.A.Y. adventures.


This picture book, The Hidden Life of a Toad by Doug Wechsler, compliments The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated) by providing color photographs and great factual details about the daily changes of the life cycle of a toad.


Mary Holland‘s book Naturally Curious Day-By-Day is a fabulous resource to have on hand if you live in New England or are simply curious about the flora & fauna in the Northeast USA.

Pages 36, 55-57, 73, 118, 159, and 196 specifically share great information about TOADS.


If you’d like to compare toads and frogs then this is a fun (with some facts) frog fairy tale chapter book titled The Prince of the Pond by Donna Jo Napoli. This story is an excellent read aloud with a few characters to add in funny voices if you like. Enjoyable for the whole family!


TOAD Pinterest Board HERE 

❤ ❤ ❤

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 32 – Eastern Towhee + Indigo Bunting


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 32 – Peter Saves a Friend and Learns Something


Peter Rabbit sat in a thicket of young trees on the edge of the Green Forest. It was warm and Peter was taking it easy. He had nothing in particular to do, and since he could not think of a cooler place he had squatted there to doze a bit and dream a bit. As far as he knew, Peter was all alone. He hadn’t seen anybody when he entered that little thicket, and though he had listened he hadn’t heard a sound to indicate that he didn’t have that thicket to himself. It was very quiet there, and though when he first entered he hadn’t the least intention in the world of going to sleep, it wasn’t long before he was dozing.

Now Peter is a light sleeper, as all little people who never know when they may have to run for their lives must be. By and by he awoke with a start, and he was very wide awake indeed. Something had wakened him, though just what it was he couldn’t say. His long ears stood straight up as he listened with all his might for some little sound which might mean danger. His wobbly little nose wobbled very fast indeed as it tested the air for the scent of a possible enemy. Very alert was Peter as he waited.

For a few minutes he heard nothing and saw nothing. Then, near the outer edge of the thicket, he heard a great rustling of dry leaves. It must have been this that had wakened him. For just an instant Peter was startled. Then his long ears told him at once that that noise was made by some one scratching among the leaves, and he knew that no one who did not wear feathers could scratch like that.

“Now who can that be?” thought Peter, and crept forward very softly towards the place from which the sound came. Presently, as he peeped between the stems of the young trees, he saw the brown leaves which carpeted the ground flying this way and that, and in the midst of them was an exceedingly busy person, a little smaller than Welcome Robin, scratching away for dear life.


Thicket of trees on the edge of the Green Forest near to a green meadow and mossy area.


Every now and then he picked up something. His head, throat, back, and breast were black. Beneath he was white. His sides were reddish-brown. His tail was black and white, and the longer feathers of his wings were edged with white. It was Chewink the Towhee, sometimes called a Ground Robin.

Peter chuckled to himself. He kept perfectly still, for it was fun to watch someone who hadn’t the least idea that he was being watched. It was quite clear that Chewink was hungry and that under those dry leaves he was finding a good meal. His feet were made for scratching and he certainly knew how to use them. For some time Peter sat there watching. He had just about made up his mind that he would make his presence known and have a bit of a morning chat when, happening to look out beyond the edge of the little thicket, he saw something red. It was something moving very slowly and cautiously towards the place where Chewink was so busy and focused on his breakfast that he forgot about everything else around him. Peter knew that there was only one person with a coat of that color. It was Reddy Fox, and quite plainly Reddy was hoping to catch Chewink.

For a second or two Peter was quite undecided what to do. He couldn’t warn Chewink without making his own presence known to Reddy Fox. Of course he could sit perfectly still and let Chewink be caught, and that was such a dreadful thought that Peter didn’t consider it for more than a second or two. He suddenly thumped the ground with his feet. It was his danger signal which all his friends know. Then he turned and scampered lipperty-lipperty-lip to a thick bramble tangle not far behind him.

At the sound of that thump Chewink instantly flew up in a little tree. Then he saw Reddy Fox and began to scold. As for Reddy, he looked over towards the bramble tangle and snarled. “I’ll get you one of these days, Peter Rabbit,” he said. “I’ll get you one of these days and pay you up for cheating me out of a breakfast.” Without so much as a glance at Chewink, Reddy turned and trotted off, trying his best to look dignified and as if he had never entertained such a thought as trying to catch Chewink.

From his perch Chewink watched until he was sure that Reddy Fox had gone away for good. Then he called softly, “Towhee! Towhee! Chewink! Chewink! All is safe now, Peter Rabbit. Come out and talk with me and let me tell you how grateful to you I am for saving my life.”

Chewink flew down to the ground and Peter crept out of the bramble tangle. “Oh, it wasn’t anything,” declared Peter. “I saw Reddy and I knew you didn’t, so I gave the alarm. You would have done the same thing for me. Do you know, Chewink, I’ve wondered a great deal about you.”

“What have you wondered about me?” asked Chewink.

“I’ve wondered what family you belong to,” admitted Peter.


Towhee by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Chewink chuckled. “I belong to a big family,” he said. “I belong to the biggest family among the birds. It is the Finch and Sparrow family. There are a lot of us and a good many of us don’t look much alike, still we belong to the same family. I suppose you know that Rosebreast the Grosbeak and Glory the Cardinal are members of my family.”

“I did not know it,” replied Peter. “It is easier to believe than it is to believe that you are related to the Sparrows.”

“Nevertheless I am,” remarked Chewink.

“What were you scratching for when I first saw you?” asked Peter.

“Oh, worms and bugs that hide under the leaves,” replied Chewink. “You have no idea how many of them hide under dead leaves.”

“Do you eat anything else?” asked Peter.

“I am very fond of berries and wild fruits in season,” replied Chewink, “as they make a nice variety in the bill of fare.”

“I’ve noticed that I seldom see you up in the tree tops,” mused Peter.

“I like the ground better,” said Chewink. “I spend more of my time on the ground than anywhere else.”

“I suppose that means that you nest on the ground,” ventured Peter.

Chewink nodded. “Of course,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I’ve got a nest in this very thicket. Mrs. Towhee is on it right now, and I suspect she’s worrying and anxious to know what happened over here when you warned me about Reddy Fox. I think I must go set her mind at rest.”

Peter was just about to ask if he might go along and see that nest when a new voice broke in.


Towhees like bugs and worms found in leaf litter.


“What are you fellows talking about?” it inquired, and there flitted just in front of Peter a little bird the size of a Sparrow. At first glance he seemed to be all blue, and such a lovely bright blue. Then as he paused for an instant Peter saw that his wings and tail were mostly black and that the lovely blue was brightest on his head and back. It was Indigo the Bunting.

“We were talking about our family,” replied Chewink. “I was telling Peter that we belong to the largest family among the birds.”

“You didn’t say anything about Indigo,” interrupted Peter. “Do you mean to say that he belongs to the same family?”

“I surely do,” replied Indigo. “I’m rather closely related to the Sparrow branch. Don’t I look like a Sparrow?”

Peter looked at Indigo closely. “In size and shape you do,” he confessed, “just the same I did not connect you with the Sparrows.”

“How about me?” asked another voice, and a little brown bird flew up beside Indigo, twitching her tail nervously. She looked very Sparrow-like indeed, so much so, that if Peter had not seen her with her handsome mate, for she was Mrs. Indigo Bunting, he certainly would have taken her for a Sparrow. Only on her wings and tail was there any of the blue which made Indigo’s coat so beautiful, and this was only a faint tinge.

“I’ll have to confess that so far as you are concerned it isn’t hard to think of you as related to the Sparrows,” declared Peter. “Don’t you sometimes wish you were dressed as Indigo in bright blue?”

Mrs. Indigo Bunting shook her head in a most decided way. “Never!” she declared. “I have worries enough raising a family as it is, if I had a coat like his I wouldn’t have a moment of peace. You have no idea how I worry about him sometimes. You ought to be thankful, Peter Rabbit, that you haven’t a coat like his. It attracts altogether too much attention.”

Peter tried to picture himself in a bright blue coat and laughed right out at the mere thought, and the others joined with him. Then Indigo flew up to the top of a tall tree not far away and began to sing. It was a lively song and Peter enjoyed it thoroughly. Mrs. Indigo Bunting took this opportunity to slip away unobserved, and when Peter looked around for Chewink, he too had disappeared. He had gone to tell Mrs. Chewink that he was quite safe and that she had nothing to worry about.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawing of a Eastern Towhee (p41).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Towhee on page 39.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 30 – Thrasher + Mockingbird


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 30 – Jenny Wren’s Cousins


Peter Rabbit never will forget his surprise when Jenny Wren asked him one spring morning if he had seen anything of her big cousin. Peter hesitated. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t think of any big cousin of Jenny Wren. All the cousins he knew anything about were very nearly Jenny’s own size.

“Have you seen anything of my big cousin? It is high time for him to be here,” declared Jenny.

“To be quite honest, I don’t know him,” replied Peter.

“Oh yes you do, I mean Brownie the Thrasher!” boomed Jenny.

In his surprise Peter fairly jumped right off the ground. “What’s that?” he exclaimed. “Since when was Brownie the Thrasher related to the Wren family?”

“Ever since there have been any Wrens and Thrashers,” proclaimed Jenny. “Brownie belongs to one branch of the family and I belong to another, and that makes him my second cousin.”

“And here I have always supposed he belonged to the Thrush family,” Peter uttered. “He certainly looks like a Thrush.”

“Looking like one doesn’t make him one though,” observed Jenny. “And so do you know if he has he arrived yet?”

“Yes,” said Peter. “I saw him only yesterday on the edge of the Old Pasture. He was fussing around in the bushes and on the ground and jerking that long tail of his up and down and side wise as if he couldn’t decide what to do with it. I’ve never seen anybody twitch their tail
around the way he does.”

Jenny Wren giggled. “That’s just like him,” said she. “It is because he thrashes his tail around so much that he is called a Thrasher. And I suppose he was wearing his new spring suit.”


Thrasher by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Well, I don’t know whether it was a new suit or not, however it was good looking,” replied Peter. “I just love that beautiful reddish-brown of his back, wings and tail, and it certainly does set off his white and buff waistcoat with those dark streaks and spots. You must admit, Jenny Wren, that any one seeing him dressed so much like the Thrushes is to be excused for thinking him a Thrush.”

“I suppose so,” admitted Jenny. “However, none of the Thrushes have such a bright brown coat. Did you notice what a long bill he has?”

Peter nodded. “And I noticed that he had two white bars on each wing,” he said.

“Did you hear him sing?” asked Jenny.

“Did I hear him sing? Oh yes!” cried Peter, his eyes shining at the memory. “He sang especially for me. He flew up to the top of a tree, tipped his head back and sang as few birds I know of can sing. He has a wonderful voice. And when he’s singing he acts as if he enjoyed it himself and knows what a good singer he is. I noticed that long tail of his hung straight down the same way Mr. Wren’s does when he sings.”

“Yes,” agreed Jenny. “That is a family trait and the tails of both my other big cousins do the same thing.”

“What’s that? Have you got more big cousins?” cried Peter in disbelief.

“Certainly,” reassured Jenny. “Mocker the Mockingbird and Kitty the Catbird belong to Brownie’s family, so they are my second cousins.”

Such a funny expression as there was on Peter’s face. He felt that Jenny Wren was telling the truth, and yet it was surprising news to him and so hard to believe that for a few minutes he couldn’t find his tongue to ask another question. Finally he ventured to ask, “Does Brownie imitate the songs of other birds the way Mocker and Kitty do?”

Jenny Wren shook her head. “No,” she said. “He’s perfectly satisfied with his own song.” Before she could add anything further the clear whistle of Glory the Cardinal sounded from a tree just a little way off. Instantly Peter forgot all about Jenny Wren’s relatives and scampered over to that tree. You see Glory is so beautiful that Peter never loses a chance to see him.

As Peter sat staring up into the tree, trying to get a glimpse of Glory’s beautiful red coat, the clear, sweet whistle sounded once more. It drew Peter’s eyes to one of the upper branches, and instead of the brilliant red coat of Glory the Cardinal he saw a bird about the size of Welcome Robin dressed in ashy-gray with two white bars on his wings, and white feathers on the outer edges of his tail. He was very trim and neat and his tail hung straight down after the manner of Brownie’s when he was singing. It was a long tail, although not as long as Brownie’s. Even as Peter blinked and stared in surprise the stranger opened his mouth and from it came Glory’s own beautiful whistle. Then the stranger looked down at Peter, and his eyes twinkled with mischief.

“Fooled you that time, didn’t I, Peter?” he chuckled. “You thought you were going to see Glory the Cardinal.”


Mockingbirds are attracted to fruit trees.


Then without waiting for Peter to reply, this stranger gave such a concert as no one else in the world could give. From that wonderful throat poured out song after song and note after note of Peter’s familiar friends of the Old Orchard, and the performance wound up with a lovely song which was all the stranger’s own. Peter didn’t have to be told who the stranger was. It was Mocker the Mockingbird.

“Oh!” gasped Peter. “Oh, Mocker, how under the sun do you do it? I was sure that it was Glory whom I heard whistling. Never again will I be able to believe my own ears.”

Mocker chuckled. “You’re not the only one I’ve fooled, Peter,” he said. “I flatter myself that I can fool almost anybody if I set out to. It’s
lots of fun. I may not be much to look at, and yet when it comes to singing there’s no one I envy.”

“I think you are very nice looking indeed,” replied Peter politely. “I’ve just been finding out this morning that you can’t tell much about folks just by their looks.”

“And now you’ve learned that you can’t always recognize folks by their voices, haven’t you?” chuckled Mocker.

“Yes,” replied Peter. “Now I shall never be sure about any feathered folks unless I can both see and hear them. Would you sing for me again, Mocker?”


Blackberry brambles are much loved by mockingbirds.


Mocker did. He sang and sang, for he clearly loves to sing. When he finished Peter had another question ready. “Somebody told me once that down in the South you are the most loved of all the birds. Is that so?”

“That’s not for me to say,” replied Mocker modestly. “I can tell you this, Peter, they do think a lot of me down there. There are many birds down there who are very beautifully dressed, birds who don’t come up here at all. Not one of them is loved as I am, and it is all on account of my voice. I would rather have a beautiful voice than a fine coat.”

“There’s Mrs. Goldy the Oriole over there,” said Mocker. “Watch me fool her.”

He began to call in exact imitation of Goldy’s voice when he is anxious about something. At once Mrs. Goldy came hurrying over to find out what the trouble was. When she discovered Mocker she lost her temper and scolded him; then she flew away a perfect picture of indignation. Mocker and Peter laughed, for they thought it a good joke.

Suddenly Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him. “Jenny said that you are a second cousin of hers. Are you really?” he asked.

Mocker nodded. “Yes,” he said, “we are relatives. We each belong to a branch of the same family.” Then he burst into Mr. Wren’s own song,
after which he excused himself and went to look for Mrs. Mockingbird. For, as he explained, it was time for them to be thinking of a nest.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Brown Thrasher
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Northern Mockingbird
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both Mockingbird (p. 91-94) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Brown Thrasher (p8) and a Mockingbird (p27).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Brown Thrasher on page 38.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Toad BOOK LOOK #4: Story Activities + The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)

 


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The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated):

A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book 

by Karen L. Willard

Join Peter Rabbit and friends on adventures discovering all about Old Mr. Toad and his days spent in and out of the water!

See sample story pages + purchase HERE

More Tadpoles + Toads in motion at PINTEREST HERE.


Karen’s P.L.A.Y.ful preview & P.L.A.Y.-filled activity  suggestions for The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated).


P.L.A.Y.ful preview (short):

Nature Noticing: Shiny Egg Strands, Tadpoles, and Toadlets!

P.L.A.Y.filled Potential & Possibilities

P.L.A.Y.-filled companion activity adventure suggestions (long):

  • Challenge: After reading this story take a walk in nature with your family and retell the story of how Old Mr. Toad changes his clothes. Can you spot some places where he might be hiding to do this? Or where he hides for his long winter’s “nap”? Your curious Capkin would like to know!
  • Super Challenge: After reading this story create your own new set of fun adventures for Old Mr. Toad and his friends from the places you have visited outdoors with your family. Adding “silly” to your stories is Super-Duper-Okey-Dokey as long as you base it on what you originally observed! The original author of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad, Thornton Burgess, combined true nature happenings with a bit of funny as he wrote about his animal characters daily lives.

Share the smiles by emailing your new original silly stories of Old Mr. Toad’s adventures to Karen@passionatelearningallyear.com and perhaps you’ll see them posted on P.L.A.Y. to pass the fun forward (with your permission)!


Capkins LOVE to be read nature stories AND to P.L.A.Y. outdoors.

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These TOAD-ally awesome books are a highly recommended way to extend your P.L.A.Y. adventures.


Plain and simple A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer & Anne Wilsdorf is a rhyming picture book just made for P.L.A.Y. with laughter built right in!


Naturally Curious Month-By-Month is another must have resource from Mary Holland with even more toads and oodles of other flora & fauna information!


Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study is an excellent classic resource with content and questions covering all the flora & fauna in New England including: Tadpoles to Toad (p.170-177), Spring Peepers (p.177-180), and Frogs (p.180-187).


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Toad BOOK LOOK #1: The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)+ video

VIDEO BONUS!

Karen, creator of P.L.A.Y., reads Chapter 1 on Pinterest HERE.


Edge of a local Smiling Pool like Old Mr. Toad’s – one lone tadpole is almost a toadlet!

~ BOOK LOOK ~

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated): A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book by Karen L. Willard purchase HERE.


Author Insight:

My love of children’s literature and being out in nature all came creatively together when I chanced upon the 100+ year old Thornton Burgess books with so many of his stories written in New England nature settings. The animal characters have their adventures throughout the Green Forest in plenty of familiar places like: Peter Rabbit with his home in the Old Briar-patch, Jenny Wren building a nest in the Old Orchard, and Old Mr. Toad visiting the Smiling Pool created by the nearby Laughing Brook. These nature scenes are found throughout the area I live in too and I visit these magical peaceful places daily to immerse in a “sense of wonder” and to make creative connections.

If you’d like to visit spaces like these in nature I’ve got great news, simply follow these two steps:

  1. Step out your door and get to know your surrounding nature spots – be it in your own backyard, neighborhood, local community, bordering towns, or beyond. There are so many hidden wonders to explore and adventures to be had throughout the seasons. Set aside some special P.L.A.Y. time routinely to connect with nature and and be sure to bring your curious Capkin along too!
  2. Try a copy of this nature story activity book for inspiration and to ignite your naturally creative imagination. Once you read this story you might just find you and your family more eager to get out and explore all the magical spaces in “your neck-of-the-woods”.

More Author Insights:

I have started re-writing many books in the Thornton Burgess nature series as they are now available for use in the public domain beginning with The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad, The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver, and (now FREE online only) The Burgess Bird Book for Children.

I have updated these stories for the 21st century family by keeping the same old nature settings and some of the same story line and giving the characters a new opportunity to model compassionate communication and loving kindness throughout their adventures. 

I have also provided bonus materials to interact with the book:

  • Nature photos taken here in New England
  • Spaces for the reader to illustrate each chapter as they creatively see it
  • Curious question prompts for conversations with friends and family
  • Resources online and book suggestions to continue the nature explorations

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Gifting these books to a kiddo in your life, a family in your neighborhood, or simply finding a way to pass P.L.A.Y. forward helps keep the nature connection alive and well.

THANKS for sharing and caring!!!

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