Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 5 of 19


Chapter 5

Old Mr. Toad’s Music Bag


“I’ve found Old Mr. Toad!” cried Peter Rabbit, hurrying after Jimmy Skunk.

“Where?” Jimmy asked.

“In the water,” declared Peter. “He’s sitting right over there where the water is shallow, and he didn’t notice me at all. Let’s get Billy Possum, and then peek over the edge of the Smiling Pool and watch to see if Old Mr. Toad really does sing.”

So they rounded up Billy Possum, and the three quietly approached the edge of the Smiling Pool, where the bank was low and the water shallow. Sure enough, there sat Old Mr. Toad with just his head out of the water. And while they were watching him, something very strange happened.

“What’s the matter with him?” whispered Peter, his big eyes looking as if they might pop out of his head.

“If he doesn’t watch out, he’ll blow up and bust!” exclaimed Jimmy.

“Listen!” whispered Billy Possum. “Do my old ears hear right? It appears to me that that song is coming right from where Old Mr. Toad is sitting.”

It certainly did appear so, and of all the songs that glad spring day there was none sweeter. Indeed there were few as sweet.

The only trouble was the song was so very short. It lasted only for two or three seconds. And when it ended, Old Mr. Toad looked quite his natural usual self again. Peter looked at Jimmy Skunk, Jimmy looked at Billy Possum, and Billy looked at Peter. And no one had a word to say. They all just sat so surprised by this unexpected revelation. Then all three looked back at Old Mr. Toad.

And even as they looked, his throat began to swell and swell and swell, until it was no wonder that Jimmy Skunk had thought that he was in danger of blowing up. And then, when it stopped swelling, there came again those beautiful little notes, so sweet and tremulous that Peter actually held his breath to listen. There was no doubt that Old Mr. Toad was singing just as he had said he was going to, and it was just as true that his song was one of the sweetest if not the sweetest of all the chorus from and around the Smiling Pool. It was very hard to believe, and yet Peter and Jimmy and Billy both saw and heard, and that was enough. Their appreciation for Old Mr. Toad grew tremendously as they listened.

Toad with the beginning of a bulging throat sitting near two egg strands.

“How does he do it?” whispered Peter.

“With that bag under his chin, of course,” replied Jimmy Skunk. “Don’t you see it’s only when that is swelled out that he sings? It’s a regular music bag. And I didn’t know he had any such bag there at all.”

“I wish,” said Peter Rabbit, feeling of his throat, “that I had a music bag like that in my throat so I could join in the singing.”

“Hold on, what are those long sparkly strands in the water?” asked Jimmy.

“I don’t know, there seem to be so very many spotty dots inside them all lined up,” said Peter.

Toad egg strands

Just then Mr. Redwing Blackbird briefly appeared again and said, “I overheard you two talking and thought I’d let you know that those strings of black little pearl beauties in the water are actually egg strands. In a few weeks those fertilized eggs will hatch out of the strands and be wiggling about as tadpoles.”

“What? How can that be?” asked Jimmy Skunk.

“Just you wait and see,” said Mr. Redwing Blackbird.

“How could that happen? What did I miss?” Peter Rabbit persisted with great curiosity.

“Overnight the female toads arrived to listen to the all male toad chorus and once they mated the egg strands were left here in the Smiling Pool. It happens every year about this time,” said Mr. Redwing Blackbird who then took flight and left Peter and Jimmy Skunk with a bunch of questions on the tip of their tongues.

Beautiful egg strands ripple and glisten in the water at the edge of the Smiling Pool

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Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 4 of 19


Chapter 4

Peter Rabbit Finds Old Mr. Toad


As each spring rolls around Peter Rabbit finds himself wishing he could burst into song as his feathered friends do at this time of year. The birds pour out in beautiful song the joy that is in them and he wishes he could do the same. Instead of a singing voice Mother Nature gave him the ability to kick his long heels and jump about to express his feelings . While that gives Peter a great deal of satisfaction, he still wishes from time to time that he could join in the singing.

And so he was wishing this very thing now, as he sat on the bank of the Smiling Pool, listening to the great spring chorus.

“Tra-la-la-lee! Oka-chee! Oka-chee! There’s joy in the spring for you and for me,” sang Redwing the Blackbird from the bulrushes.

Meadow Lark by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

From over in the Green Meadows rose the clear lilt of Carol the Meadow Lark, and among the alders just where the Laughing Brook ran into the Smiling Pool a flood of happiness was pouring from the throat of Little Friend the Song Sparrow. Winsome Bluebird’s sweet, almost plaintive, whistle seemed to fairly float in the air, so that it was hard to say just where it did come from, and in the top of the Big Hickory tree, Welcome Robin was singing as if his heart were bursting with joy. Sammy Jay was also adding a beautiful bell-like note. As for the Smiling Pool, it seemed as if the very water itself sang, for a mighty chorus of clear piping voices from unseen singers rose from all around its banks. Peter knew who those singers were, although look as he might he could see none of them. They were hylas, the tiny cousins of Stickytoes the Tree Toad.

Listening to all these joyous voices, Peter forgot for a time what had brought him to the Smiling Pool. However, Jimmy Skunk and Billy Possum didn’t forget. They were still looking for Old Mr. Toad.

“Well, Mr. Dreamer, have you found him yet?” asked Jimmy Skunk, coming up behind Peter.

Peter came to himself with a start. “No,” he said. “I was just listening and wishing that I could sing, too. Don’t you ever wish you could sing, Jimmy?”

“No,” replied Jimmy. “I never spend time wishing I could do things that I was never meant to do. It is funny though that Old Mr. Toad is nowhere in sight. He said that he was coming down here to sing, and Redwing the Blackbird seemed to be expecting him. I’ve looked everywhere I can think of without finding him. Ah well, I do believe I’ll give it one more try. Stop your day dreaming Peter and come help us look.”

So Peter stopped his dreaming and joined in the search. Now there was one place where neither Peter nor Jimmy nor Billy had thought of looking. That was in the Smiling Pool itself. They just took it for granted that Old Mr. Toad was somewhere on the bank. Presently Peter came to a place where the bank was very low and the water was shallow for quite a little distance out in the Smiling Pool. From out of that shallow water came the piping voice of a hyla, and Peter stopped to stare, trying to see the tiny singer.

Suddenly he jumped right up in the air with surprise. There was a familiar looking head sticking out of the water. Peter had found Old Mr. Toad!

Toad in the water during mating season

P.L.A.Y. Ponderings

  1. Is it spring where you are? What animals are singing? Softly? Loudly?
  2. Could you describe their songs with words or letters and make a drawing? Or could you try to mimic or copy their sounds with your voice or by whistling?
  3. Are there animals that are staying silent at this time?

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Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 3 of 19


Chapter 3

The Hunt for Old Mr. Toad


Now, Old Mr. Toad was hurrying as fast as ever he could and was quite out of breath, and he wasn’t getting along very fast compared with the way Peter Rabbit or Jimmy Skunk or Billy Possum could cover the ground. You see he cannot make long jumps like his cousin, Grandfather Frog, only little short hops instead.

Possum – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

So Peter and Jimmy and Billy took their time about following him. They stopped to hunt for fat beetles for Jimmy Skunk, and pausing at every little patch of sweet clover for Peter Rabbit to help himself. They waited for Billy Possum to hunt for a nest of Carol the Meadow Lark, on the chance that he would find some fresh eggs there. He didn’t find the nest for the very good reason that Carol hadn’t built one just yet this season.

Half way across the Green Meadows they stopped to play with the Merry Little Breezes, and because it was very pleasant there, they played longer than they realized. When at last they started on again, Old Mr. Toad was out of sight.

“Never mind,” said Peter, “we can catch up with him easy enough”.

Meanwhile, Old Mr. Toad kept right on, hop, hop, hipperty-hop, while the others were playing, and so it happened that when at last Peter and Jimmy and Billy reached the Smiling Pool, they hadn’t caught another glimpse of him.

“Do you suppose he hid somewhere, and we passed him?” asked Peter.

Billy shook his head. “ I don’t reckon so, I think he just got ahead of us and we’ll find him here sitting on the bank somewhere.”

So right away the three separated to look for Old Mr. Toad. All along the bank of the Smiling Pool they looked. They peeped under old leaves and sticks. They looked in every place where Old Mr. Toad might have hidden, and they could not find a trace of him.

“Tra-la-la-lee! Oka-chee! Oka-chee! Happy am I as I can be!” sang Mr. Redwing, as he swayed to and fro among the bulrushes.

Redwing Blackbird – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Say, Mr. Redwing, have you seen Old Mr. Toad?” called Peter Rabbit.

“No,” replied Mr. Redwing. “Is that whom you fellows are looking for? I wondered if you had lost something. What do you want with Old Mr. Toad?”

Peter explained how they had followed Old Mr. Toad to see what he was up to. “We are curious to know if he really has a singing voice,” said Peter,” or if the spring has made Old Mr. Toad crazy as he was in such a hurry to reach the Smiling Pool.”

“Oh, that’s it, is it?” replied Mr. Redwing, his bright eyes twinkling. “I’ve been wondering where Old Mr. Toad was, and I’m ever so glad to learn that he hasn’t forgotten that he has a very important part in our beautiful spring chorus.” Then once more Mr. Redwing began to sing.


  1. If there was a foot race on land who would come in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place between Jimmy Skunk, Billy Possum, Old Mr. Toad, and Peter Rabbit. Why?
  2. What would it like to spend your day with a “bird’s eye view” like Mr. Redwing flying overhead and seeing what is going on in the meadow, orchard, Smiling Pool, and other special spaces?

Discover more P.L.A.Y. TOAD nature videos and adventures!

Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!

The Burgess Animal Story for Children, The Burgess Bird Story for Children, and The Adventures of __________ series (Paddy the Beaver, Lightfoot the Deer, Old Mr. Toad, etc.), are all originally authored by Thornton Burgess and are now available to you through P.L.A.Y.

P.L.A.Y. has provided new online versions of these updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classics 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 the fields and forests through these animal story adventures
  • 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.

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 2 of 19


Chapter 2

Jimmy Skunk Consults His Friends


Jimmy Skunk scratched his head thoughtfully as he watched Old Mr. Toad go down the Lone Little Path, hop, hop, hipperty-hop, towards the Smiling Pool. Jimmy Skunk was certainly puzzled. If Old Mr. Toad had told him that he could fly, Jimmy would not have been more surprised, or found it harder to believe than that Old Mr. Toad had a singing voice. The truth is, Jimmy didn’t believe it. He thought that Old Mr. Toad was trying to fool him.

Presently Peter Rabbit came along. He found Jimmy Skunk doing some hard thinking. Jimmy had quite forgotten to look for fat beetles and he was puzzling over his chance encounter with Old Mr. Toad.

Cotton-tail Rabbit by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Hello, old striped-coat, what have you got on your mind this fine morning?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Him,” said Jimmy simply, pointing down the Lone Little Path.

Peter looked. “Do you mean Old Mr. Toad?” he asked.

Jimmy nodded. “Do you see anything odd about him?” he inquired.

Peter stared down the Lone Little Path. “No,” he replied, “except that he seems in a great hurry.”

“Well, that’s just it,” Jimmy returned promptly. “Did you ever see him hurry unless he was frightened?”

Peter confessed that he never had.

“Well, he isn’t frightened now and yet just look at him go,” replied Jimmy. “Says he has a singing voice, and that he has to take part in the spring chorus at the Smiling Pool and that he is late.”

Peter looked very hard at Jimmy to see if he was fooling or telling the truth.

“Old Mr. Toad can sing? And he is a member of a chorus? This I’ve got to see!” said Peter with great curiosity.

Jimmy grinned. “I think he’s crazy, if you ask me,” he said. “And yet he was just as earnest about it as if it were really so. I think he must have eaten something that has gone to his head. There’s Billy Possum over there. Let’s ask him what he thinks.”

So Jimmy and Peter joined Billy, and Jimmy told the story about Old Mr. Toad all over again. Billy chuckled and then said “ I learned long ago that I will always have more to learn about my neighbors. Seems to me we’ve overlooked something about Old Mr. Toad. Let’s all go down to the Smiling Pool and see what this is all about.”

“Oh yes, let’s go!” cried Peter, kicking up his heels. You know Peter is always ready to go anywhere or do anything that will satisfy his curiosity.

Would this fat beetle make for a good skunk snack?

Jimmy Skunk thought it over for a few minutes, and then he decided that as he hadn’t anything in particular to do, and as he might find some fat beetles on the way, he would go too. So off they started after Old Mr. Toad, Peter Rabbit in the lead as usual, Billy Possum next, grinning as only he can grin, and in the rear Jimmy Skunk, taking his time and keeping a sharp eye out for fat beetles.


  1. What animals always seem to be in a hurry when they move? What animals seem to keep a slow steady pace? How about insects – slow ones? fast ones?
  2. Why does Jimmy Skunk like beetles so much? What else do skunks eat? Does Peter Rabbit like beetles too?

Discover more P.L.A.Y. TOAD nature videos and adventures!

Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!


The Burgess Animal Story for Children, The Burgess Bird Story for Children, and The Adventures of __________ series (Paddy the Beaver, Lightfoot the Deer, Old Mr. Toad, etc.), are all originally authored by Thornton Burgess and are now available to you through P.L.A.Y.

P.L.A.Y. has provided new online versions of these updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classics 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 the fields and forests through these animal story adventures
  • 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.