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, 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.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 28 – Coyote and Wolf


Chapter 28

Coyote and Wolf


“Of course, you all know to what branch of the Dog family Old Man Coyote belongs,” said Mother Nature as she looked expectantly at the circle of little four-legged folks gathered around her. No one answered. “Well, well, well!” exclaimed Mother Nature, “I am surprised. I supposed that all of you knew that Old Man Coyote is a member of the Wolf branch of the family.”

“Do you mean that he is really a true Wolf?” exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.

“Yes” replied Mother Nature. “Old Man Coyote varies in size from not so very much bigger than Reddy Fox to almost the size of his big cousin, Howler the Timber Wolf. Also he varies in color from a general brownish-gray to a yellowish-brown, being whitish underneath. His face is rather longer than that of Reddy Fox. He has a brushy tail, although it is not as thick as Reddy’s.”

Coyote – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In his habits, Old Man Coyote is much like Reddy, except he is larger and stronger and he is able to hunt larger animal including Pigs, Lambs, and newly born Calves. He is one of the swiftest of all runners.”

“Old Man Coyote is a good parent and provider for his family. He and Mrs. Coyote have a large family every year, sometimes as many as ten babies. Their home is in the ground and is very similar to that of Reddy Fox. They eat almost everything eatable, including such animals and birds as they can catch, Frogs, Toads, Snakes and insects, and even some fruits. Mr. and Mrs. Coyote often hunt together. Sometimes, when the children are full-grown, they all hunt together. When they do this they can prey on an animal the size of Lightfoot the Deer.”

“Old Man Coyote has one of the strangest voices to be heard anywhere, and he delights to use it, especially at night. It is like many voices shouting together, and one who hears it for the first time cannot believe that all that sound comes from one throat.”

“His big cousin, Howler the Gray Wolf, sometimes called Timber Wolf– is found now only in the forests of the North and the mountains of the Great West. Once he roamed over the greater part of this whole great country. Howler is as keen-witted as, and perhaps keener-witted than, Reddy Fox or Old Man Coyote, and added to this he has great strength. He is one of the most feared of all the people of the Green Forest. In summer when food is plentiful, Howler and Mrs. Wolf devote themselves to the bringing up of their family. When winter comes, Howler and his friends get together and hunt in packs. With their wonderful noses they can follow Deer and run them down as well as Sheep and young Cattle. The harder the winter the bolder they become. In the Far North they grow especially large, and because of the scarcity of food there in winter, they become exceedingly fierce. They can go an amazingly long time without food and still retain their strength.”

Wolf – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Howler and Mrs. Wolf mate for life, and each is at all times loyal to the other. They are the best of parents, and the little Wolves are carefully trained in all that a Wolf should know.”

“When Wolves hunt in packs they have a leader, usually the strongest or the smartest among them.”

“The color of Howler’s coat usually is brownish-gray and that is why he is called the Gray Wolf; and sometimes it is almost black, and in the Far North it becomes snowy white. Howler the Wolf is very closely related to the Dogs which humans keep as pets. They are really first cousins.”

“My!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit with a shiver, “I am glad Howler the Wolf doesn’t live around here. Do Old Man Coyote and Howler the Wolf get along with one another?” he asked.

“Actually, Old Man Coyote takes pains to keep out of Howler’s way,” said Mother Nature,” and yet he is clever enough to know that when Howler the Wolf has found his prey and had his dinner there may be some left over. So when Howler is hunting in Old Man Coyote’s neighborhood, the latter keeps an eye and ear open to what is going on.”

“By the way, all branches of the Dog family do one thing: they walk on their toes. They never put the whole foot down flat as does Buster Bear. And, as you have already discovered, all branches of the Dog family are intelligent.”

“Why Hello, there is Black Shadow, the cat from Farmer Brown’s, coming down the Lone Little Path!” announced Mother Nature. “I suspect it will be well for some of you smallest ones to get out of sight before she arrives. She doesn’t live over here in the Green Forest rather she simply visits along the edges. She does have a cousin who lives in the Green Forest though, Yowler the Bob Cat. Shall I tell you about Yowler and his cousins tomorrow?”

“Yes please!” cried Happy Jack, speaking for all. Then, as Black Shadow was drawing near, they separated and went their several ways.

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

  1. Look closely, can you see the differences between a wolf and a coyote with these paintings? Perhaps look at what they do have in common first and then look for differences.
  2. Visit this LINK to get another view of a coyote from the Mass Audubon Society and this article with photos about coyotes in Massachusetts.

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.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 23 – Badger + Wolverine


Chapter 23

Badger and Wolverine


“Well, Peter,” said Mother Nature, “did you visit Digger the Badger yesterday?”

“Oh yes,” replied Peter, “I visited him, although I didn’t find out too much. It took me a long time to find him. He has more holes than anybody I ever knew, and I couldn’t tell which one is his home. When I did find him, he gave me a terrible scare. I didn’t see him until I was right on top of him, and if I hadn’t jumped, and jumped quickly, I guess I wouldn’t be here this morning. He was lying flat down in the grass and he was so very flat that I just didn’t see him. I told him that I wanted to know all about him and his ways and he didn’t say much.”

“I sat around awhile and watched him, although he mostly took a sun bath. He certainly is an odd looking fellow to be a member of the Weasel family. There’s nothing about him that looks like a Weasel, that I could see. Of course, he isn’t as broad as he is long, although he looks almost as if when he is lying flat down and that long hair of his is spread out on both sides. He has a silvery gray and silky looking coat. It seems to be parted right down the middle of his back. His tail is rather short, stout, and hairy. As for his head, each cheek is a bar of black. The back part of each ear is black, and he has rather a sharp nose. He has a broad white stripe from his nose right straight back over his head. Somehow when he is walking he makes me think of a little, flattened-out Bear with very short legs. And such claws as he has on his front feet! I don’t know any one with such big strong claws for his size. I guess that must be because he is such a digger.”

Badger – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“That’s a very good guess, Peter,” said Mother Nature. “Has any one here ever seen him dig?”

“I did once,” replied Peter. “I happened to be over near where he lives when Farmer Brown’s boy came along and surprised Digger some distance from one of his holes. Digger didn’t try to get to one of those holes; he simply began to dig. My gracious, how the sand did fly! He was out of sight in the ground before Farmer Brown’s boy could get to him. Johnny Chuck is pretty good at digging, and yet he simply isn’t in the same class with Digger the Badger. No one is that I know of, unless it is Miner the Mole. I guess this is all I know about him, excepting that he is a great fighter. Once I saw him go after a dog almost twice his size. I never heard such hissing and snarling and growling. He wouldn’t tell me anything about how he lives though.”

“Thank you, Peter,” replied Mother Nature, “That’s as much as I expected you would be able to find out. Just to add a bit more, his home is here and on the great plains and in the flat, open country of the Middle West and Far West, where Gophers and Ground Squirrels and Prairie Dogs live. They furnish him with the greater part of his food. All of them are good diggers, however they don’t stand any chance when he sets his attention on digging them out. His teeth are sharp and strong and he is afraid of no one of his own size. His skin is very tough and he is further protected by his long hair.”

“Digger spends most of his time under ground during daylight, seldom coming out except for a sun bath. As soon as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed for the night, Digger appears and travels about in search of a dinner. His legs are so short and he is so stout and heavy that he travels slowly. He makes up for this with his digging speed. He doesn’t expect to catch anyone on the surface, unless he happens to surprise a Meadow Mouse within jumping distance. Instead he goes hunting for the holes of Ground Squirrels and other burrowers, and when he finds one promptly digs. He eats Grasshoppers, Beetles, small Snakes, and other small animals. It was well for you, Peter, that you jumped when you did, for I suspect that Digger would have enjoyed a Rabbit dinner.”

“In winter Digger sleeps as Johnny Chuck does, coming out soon after the snow disappears in the spring. Then Mr. and Mrs. Badger have two to five babies late in the spring or early in the summer. They are born under ground in a nest of grass. Mr. and Mrs. Badger are quite satisfied to live by themselves and be left alone. They are rarely seen in the daytime, although they are probably out more often than you would suppose. Peter has told how he nearly stepped on Digger before seeing him. It is Digger’s wise habit to lie perfectly still until he is sure he has been seen, so people often pass him without seeing him at all, or if they see him they take him for a stone.”

“While Digger the Badger is a lover of the open country and doesn’t like the Green Forest at all he has a cousin who is found only in the Green Forest and usually very deep in the Green Forest at that. This is the Wolverine, the largest member of the family. None of you have seen him, because he lives mostly in the great forests of the North beyond here.”

“Wolverine has several other names. He is called ‘Carcajou’ in the Far North, and out in the Far West is often called ‘Skunkbear.’ The latter name probably is given him because in shape and color he looks a good deal as though he might be half Skunk and half Bear. He is about three feet long with a tail six inches long, and is thickset and heavy. His legs are short and very stout. His hair, including that on the tail, is long and shaggy. It is blackish-brown, becoming grayish on the upper part of his head and cheeks. His feet are black. When he walks he puts his feet flat on the ground as a Bear does.”

Wolverine – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Being so short of leg and heavy of body, he is slow in his movements. What he lacks in this respect he makes up in strength and cunning. Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote are clever, and so too is Wolverine. His strength is so great that often he will tear his way into the cabins of hunters while they are absent and then eat or destroy all their food. His appetite is tremendous. What he cannot eat or take away, he covers with musk and buries it so that no other animal will touch it.”

“Mrs. Wolverine has two or three babies in the spring. They live in a cave, and if a cave cannot be found, they use a hole in the ground which Mrs. Wolverine digs. It is usually well hidden. Wolverine will eat any kind of flesh and seems not to care whether it be freshly killed or so old that it is decayed.”

“I think this will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up another branch of the family, some members of which all of you know. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good plan to have Shadow the Weasel here.”

Such a look of dismay swept over the faces of all those little four-legged folks, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky. “If–if–if you please, I don’t think I’ll come tomorrow morning,” said Danny Meadow Mouse.

“I–I–I think I shall be too busy at home and will have to miss that session,” said Striped Chipmunk.

Mother Nature smiled. “Don’t worry, little folks,” she said. “You ought to know that if I had Shadow here I wouldn’t let him hurt any one of you. Although I am afraid if he were here you would pay no attention to me, so I promise you that Shadow will not be anywhere near.”

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

  1. What purpose do you think the white stripe serves on a Badger? Why do you think it goes from nose to tail vs. side stripes? Why is it symmetrical on their face?
  2. If the Wolverine looks like a “half skunk + half bear”, what other animals can you think of that look like “half of this + half of that”?

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.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 21 – Bats


Chapter 21

Bats


In the dusk of early evening, as Peter Rabbit sat trying to make up his mind whether to spend the night at home in the dear Old Briar-patch with Mrs. Rabbit or go over to the Green Forest in search of an adventure, a very fine, squeaky voice came right out of the air above him startling him for just a moment.

“Better stay at home, Peter Rabbit. Better stay at home tonight,” said the squeaky voice.

“Well hello, Flitter!” exclaimed Peter, as he stared up at a little dark form darting this way and twisting that way, now up, now down, almost brushing Peter’s head and then flying so high he could hardly be seen. “Why should I stay at home?”

“Because I saw Old Man Coyote sneaking along the edge of the Green Forest, and Reddy Fox is hunting on the Green Meadows, and Hooty the Owl is on watch in the Old Orchard,” replied Flitter the Red Bat or otherwise known as Tree Bat. “Of course it is no business of mine what you do, Peter Rabbit, however if I were in your place I certainly would stay at home. Good Gracious! I’m ever so glad I can go where I please when I please. You ought to fly, Peter. You really ought to fly. There is nothing like it.”

“Oh how I wish I could,” sighed Peter.

“So long for now, I must be on my way,” squeaked Flitter, and darted away in the direction of Farmer Brown’s house. Peter wisely decided that the dear Old Briar-patch was the best place for him that night, so he remained at home, to the joy of Mrs. Rabbit, and spent the night eating, dozing and wondering how it would feel to be able to fly like Flitter the Tree Bat.

Flitter was still on his mind when he started for the learning session the next morning, and by the time he got there he was bubbling over with curiosity and questions. He could hardly wait to get started. Mother Nature noticed how fidgety he was.

“What have you on your mind, Peter?” she asked.

“Didn’t you tell us that the Shrew family and the Mole family are the only families, in this country, in the order of insect-eaters? asked Peter.

“I certainly did,” was Mother Nature’s prompt reply.

“Doesn’t Flitter the Tree Bat live on insects too?” asked Peter.

Mother Nature nodded. “Why yes he does,” she said. “In fact he lives altogether on insects.”

“Then why isn’t he a member of that order?” asked Peter.

Mother Nature smiled, for she was pleased that Peter had thought of this. “That question does you credit, Peter,” she said. “The reason is that he and his relatives are so very different from other animals that they have been placed in an order of their own. It is called the Chi-rop-ter-a, which means wing-handed. How many of you know Flitter the Bat?”

“I’ve seen him often,” declared Jumper the Hare.

“So have I,” said Chatterer the Red Squirrel. Each of the others said the same thing. There wasn’t one who hadn’t watched and envied Flitter darting about in the air at dusk in the early evening or as the shadows were stealing away in the early morning. Mother Nature smiled.

Tree Bat or Red Bat illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Seeing him isn’t the same as knowing him,” she said. “Who is there who knows more about him and his ways beyond that he flies at night and catches insects in the air?”

She waited a minute or two and yet no one spoke. The fact is there was not one who really knew anything about Flitter. “I suspect none of you has seen Flitter, excepting in the air, and then he moves so rapidly that there is no chance to get a good look at him. I think this is just the time and place for you to really make the acquaintance of Flitter the Red Bat,” she said.

She stepped over to a bush and parted the leaves. Hanging from a twig was what appeared at first glance to be a rumpled, reddish-brown dead leaf. She touched it lightly. At once it came to life, stirring uneasily.

“You have some callers, a few of your friends who want to get really acquainted with you. Suppose you wake up for a few minutes,” explained Mother Nature pleasantly.

Flitter yawned once or twice sleepily, shook himself, then grinned down at the wondering faces of his friends crowded about just under him. “Hello, folks,” he said in that thin, squeaky voice of his.

The sunlight fell full on him, and yet he seemed not to mind it in the least. In fact, he appeared to enjoy its warmth. He was hanging by his toes, head down, his wings folded. He was about four inches long, and his body was much like that of a Mouse. His fur was fine and thick, a beautiful orange-red. For his size his ears were large. Instead of the long head and sharp nose of the Mouse family, Flitter had a rather round head and blunt nose. Almost at once Peter Rabbit made a discovery. It was that Flitter possessed a pair of bright, little, snapping eyes and didn’t seem in the least bothered by the bright light.

“Where did that saying ‘blind as a Bat’ ever come from?” asked Peter.

Mother Nature laughed. “Goodness knows; I don’t,” she said. “There is nothing blind about Flitter. He sleeps through the day and does his hunting in the dusk of evening or early morning, and if he is disturbed and has to fly during the day, he has no trouble in seeing. Flitter, stretch out one of your wings so that everybody can see it.”

Flitter stretched out one of his wings. Everybody gasped, for it was the first time any of them ever had seen one of those wings near enough to know just what it was like. Flitter’s arm was long, especially from his elbow to his hand. And the surprising thing was the length of his three fingers. Each finger appeared to be about as long as the whole arm. From his shoulder a thin, rubbery skin was stretched to the ends of the long fingers, then across to the ankle of his hind foot on that side, and from there across to the tip of his tail. A little short thumb with a long, curved claw stuck up free from the edge of the wing.

“Now you can see just why he is called wing-handed,” explained Mother Nature, as Flitter folded the wing. In a minute he began to clean it. Everybody laughed, for it was funny to watch him. He would take the skin of the wing in his mouth and pull and stretch it as if it were rubber. He washed it with his tiny tongue. Then he washed his fur. You see, Flitter is very neat. With the little claw of his thumb he scratched his head and combed his hair. All the time he remained hanging head down, clinging to the twig with his toes.

“Where is Mrs. Flitter?” asked Mother Nature.

“Actually I don’t know,” replied Flitter, beginning on the other wing. “She’s quite equal to looking after herself, so I don’t worry about her.”

” I’ll show you,” said Mother Nature.

She stepped over to the very next tree, parted the leaves, and there, sure enough, hung Mrs. Tree Bat fast asleep. And clinging to her were three of the funniest babies in all the Great World! All were asleep, and Mother Nature didn’t awaken them. As for Flitter, he seemed to take not the slightest interest in his family, but went right on washing up.

“Flitter the Bat is one of the best known of the whole family in this country,” said Mother Nature, as they left Flitter to resume his nap. He is found from the East to the Far West, from ocean to ocean. Like the birds, he migrates when cold weather comes, returning in the early summer. Although, like all Bats, he sleeps all day as a rule, he doesn’t mind the sunlight, as you have just seen for yourselves. Sometimes on dull, dark days he doesn’t wait for evening and will fly in the afternoon. Usually he is the first of the Bat family to appear in the evening, often coming out while it is still light enough to show the color of his red coat. No other member of his family has a coat of this color.

“Some people call him the Red Bat and some say the Tree Bat. After seeing him hanging over there I think you can guess why. He rarely goes to a cave for his daytime sleep, as most of his relatives do, and instead hangs by his toes from a twig of a tree or bush, frequently not far from the ground, just as he is right now.”

“As all of you who have watched him know, Flitter is a swift flier. This is because his wings are long and narrow. They are made for speed. Few if any birds can equal them in the air because of their wonderful ability to twist and turn. They are masters of the art of flying. Moreover, they make no sound with their wings, something which only the Owls among birds can boast of.”

“You all saw the three babies clinging to Mrs. Tree Bat. Most Bats have two babies at a time, occasionally only one, however the Tree Bat and his larger cousin, the Hoary Bat, have three or four. Mrs. Tree Bat carries her babies about with her until they are quite big. When they are too large to be carried she leaves them hanging in a tree while she hunts for her meals.”

Brown Bat illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Flitter has many cousins. One of these is the Little Brown Bat, one of the smallest members of the family and found all over the country. He is brown all over. He is sometimes called the Cave Bat, because whenever a cave is to be found he sleeps there. Sometimes great numbers of these little Bats are found crowded together in a big cave. When there is no cave handy, a barn or hollow tree is used. Often he will creep behind the closed blinds of a house to spend the day.”

“Very like this little fellow in color is his cousin the Big Brown Bat, called the House Bat and the Carolina Bat. He is especially fond of the homes of humans. He is a little bigger than the Tree Bat. While the latter is one of the first Bats to appear in the evening, the former is one of the last, coming out only when it is quite dark. He also found all over the country.”

“The Silvery Bat is of nearly the same size and in many places is more common than any of the cousins. The fur is dark brown or black with white tips, especially in the young. From this it gets its name. One of the largest and handsomest of the Bat cousins, and one of the rarest is the Hoary Bat. His fur is a mixture of dark and light brown tipped with white. His wings are very long and narrow and he is one of the most wonderful of all fliers. He is a lover of the Green Forest and does his hunting high above the tree-tops, making his appearance late in the evening. Like the Tree Bat he spends the hours of daylight hanging in a tree.”

“Down in the Southeast is a member of the family with ears so big that he is called the Big-eared Bat. He is a little chap, smaller than Little Brown Bat, and his ears are half as long his head and body together. For his size he has the biggest ears of any animal in all this great country.”

“All members of the Bat family typically seek water as the first thing they do when they start out at dusk before hunting insects. They all live on insects and for this reason they are helpful to humans (not harmful). They especially eat great numbers of mosquitoes. Now who shall we learn about next?”


Following the prompts below draw, doodle, write, ponder, paint, color, and creatively capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you ever spent time outdoors on a summer evening at dusk to watch the bats swoop in and eat insects? Try it!
  2. Imagine what it would feel like to hang from your feet while you sleep in a tree. Now create a drawing or write about this experience!
  3. Visit this LINK at the Mass Audubon Society for more photos, information, and extended learning opportunities about bats.

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. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 3 – Rabbits and Hares


Chapter 3

More about Rabbits and Hares


At sun-up the next morning Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare were on hand promptly for their next learning session. Mother Nature smiled as she saw the eager curiosity shining in their eyes. She didn’t wait for them to ask questions. “Yesterday,” she said, “I told you about your water-loving cousin, the Marsh Rabbit. You have another relative down there in the Sunny South who is almost as fond of the water. Some folks call him the Swamp Rabbit. Others call him the Swamp Hare. The latter is really the best name for him, because he is a true Hare. He lives in swamps instead of marshes, but he is a splendid swimmer and fond of the water. When he is chased by an enemy he makes for the nearest point or stream.”

“How big is he?” asked Jumper.

“Just about your size, Jumper, and perhaps a little bit heavier” replied Mother Nature. Because his hair lies much smoother than yours, you probably would look a little bit bigger if you were sitting beside him. As with his cousin, the Marsh Rabbit, the hair on his feet is thin. His toes are rather long and he can spread them widely, which is a great help in swimming. He doesn’t have to take to the water as his little cousin does, for he is a very good runner. However, he does take to it as the easiest way of getting rid of those who are chasing him. The Marsh Rabbit and the Swamp Hare are the only members of your family in all the Great World who are fond of the water and who are at home in it. Now, who shall I tell you about next?”

“Our biggest cousins,” cried Peter and Jumper together. “The ones you told us yesterday are bigger than Jumper,” added Peter. “It is hard to believe that there can be any much bigger than he.”

Mother Nature’s eyes twinkled. “It is often hard to believe things you can not see,” she said. “Compared with these other relatives, Jumper really isn’t big at all. He seems big to you, Peter, however if he should meet his cousin, Snow White the Arctic Hare, who lives way up in the Frozen North, I am quite sure Jumper would feel small. Snow White looks very much like Jumper in his winter coat, for he is all white save the tips of his ears, which are black.”

“Does he wear a white coat all year round?” asked Peter eagerly.

Arctic Hares illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“When he lives so far north that there is snow and ice for most of the year, he does,” replied Mother Nature. “And when he lives far enough south for the snow to disappear for a little while in the summer, he changes his white coat for one of gray.”

“How can he live so far north that the snow and ice seldom melt?” asked Peter, looking very much puzzled. “What can he find to eat?

“Even way up there there is moss growing under the snow. And in the short summer other plants grow. During the long winter Snow White digs down through the snow to get these. He also eats the bark and twigs of little stunted trees. And yet as big as he is, you have a cousin who is still bigger, the biggest of all the family.”

“Who is he?” Jumper and Peter cried together.

“He is called White-tailed Jack,” replied Mother Nature. “And he lives chiefly on the great plains of the Northwest, though sometimes he is found in the mountains and forests. He is sometimes called the Prairie Hare. In winter his coat is white and in the summer it is a light brown. Summer or winter his tail is white, much like you Peter. It is because of this that he is called White-tailed Jack.”

“Is his tail as short as mine?” asked Peter eagerly.

Peter Rabbit and his very short tail- illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature laughed right out. “No, Peter,” she replied. “It wouldn’t be called a long tail by any other animal, however for a member of your family it really is long, and when White-tailed Jack is running he switches it from side to side. His hind legs are very long and powerful, and he can make a single jump of twenty feet without half trying. Not even Old Man Coyote can catch him in a straightaway race. You may think Jumper’s ears are long, Peter, and yet they are short in comparison to the ears of White-tailed Jack. Not only are his ears long they are also very big. When he squats in his form and lays his ears back they reach way over his shoulders. Like the other members of the Hare family he doesn’t use holes in the ground or hollow logs. He trusts to his long legs and to his wonderful speed to escape from his predators. Among them are Howler the Wolf, Old Man Coyote, Eagles, Hawks and Owls. He is so big that he would make five or six of you, Peter.”

Peter drew a long breath. “It is dreadfully hard to believe that I can have a cousin as big as that,” he exclaimed. “Have I any other cousins anywhere near as big?”

Mother Nature nodded. “There are some others very like White-tailed Jack, only not quite as big,” she said. “They have long hind legs, and great ears, although their coats are different, and they live on the great plains farther south. Some of them live so far south that it is warm all the year round. One of these is Antelope Jack, whose home is in the Southwest.”

“Oh please tell us about him,” begged Peter.

“To begin with,” replied Mother Nature, “he is a member of the big Jack Rabbit or Jack Hare branch of your family. None of this branch should be called a Rabbit. All the members are first cousins to Jumper and are true Hares. All have big ears, long, rather thin necks, and long legs. Even their front legs are comparatively long. Antelope Jack is probably next in size to White-tailed Jack. Strange to say, although he lives where it is warm for most of the year, his coat is very largely white. His back is a yellowish-brown and so is his throat. His sides are white. The surprising thing about him is that he has the power of making himself seem almost all white. He can make the white hair spread out at will by means of some special little muscles which I have given him, so that the white of his sides at times almost seems to meet on his back. When he does this in the sun it makes flashes of white which can be seen a long way. By means of this Antelope Jack and his friends can keep track of each other when they are a long distance apart. There is only one other animal who can flash signals in this way, and that is the Antelope of whom I will tell you some other time. It is because Jack flashes signals in this way that he is called Antelope Jack. In his habits he is otherwise much like the other members of his family. He trusts to his long legs and his wonderful powers of jumping to keep him out of danger. He is not as well known as his commoner cousin, plain Jack Rabbit. Everybody knows Jack Rabbit.”

Jack Rabbit illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Peter shook his head. “I don’t,” he said very quietly.

“Then it is time you did,” replied Mother Nature. “If you had ever been in the Far West you would know him. Everybody out there knows him. He isn’t quite as big as Antelope Jack although he is still a big fellow. He wears a brownish coat much like Jumper’s, and the tips of his long ears are black. His tail is longer than Jumper’s, and when he runs he carries it down.”

“I don’t carry mine down,” Peter piped up.

Mother Nature laughed right out. “True enough, Peter, true enough,” she said. “You couldn’t if you wanted to. It isn’t long enough to carry any way other than up. Jack has more of a tail than you have, just as he has longer legs. My, how he can run! He goes with great bounds and about every tenth bound he jumps very high. This is so that he can get a good look around to watch out for predators.”

“Who are his natural predators?” asked Peter.

“Foxes, Coyotes, Hawks, Eagles, Owls, and Weasels,” replied Mother Nature. “In fact, he has about as many predators as you have.”

“I know I ought to keep away from that garden,” said Peter very meekly, “but you have no idea what a temptation it is. The things in that garden do taste so good.”

Now I guess you have learned sufficient about your long-legged cousins. I’ve a great deal to do, so skip along home, both of you,” said Mother Nature.

“If you please, Mother Nature, may we come again tomorrow?” asked Peter.

“And whatever for?” inquired Mother Nature. “Haven’t you learned enough about your family?”

“Yes,” replied Peter, “however there are lots and lots of things I would like to know about other animals. If you please, I would like to come to you every day. You see, the more I learn about my neighbors, the better able I will be to take care of myself and understand them as well.”

“All right, Mr. Curiosity,” replied Mother Nature good-naturedly, “come again tomorrow morning as I’m happy to share what I know.”

So Peter and Jumper politely bade her goodbye and started for their homes. Lipperty-lipperity-lip!

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

  1. What do you think of rabbits swimming (Chapter 2) and rabbits playing in the snow? What do you see in your minds-eye when you try to picture them in the water or in the fluffy white crystals? Was this news to you and hard to picture?
  2. *Chapters 1-3 talk about various rabbits and the size of their ears. Of what use are large ears? How are the ears held when the rabbit is resting? running? Or when the rabbit is startled vs. checking for danger? Can you mime or act this out with your hands or draw it on a page?
  3. *Describe the eyes of a rabbit. Where are they positioned? Do you think a rabbit sleeps with their eyes open or closed? Does a rabbit wink?
  4. * What do most rabbits eat? What are they drawn to eat in warm summer like conditions vs. cold winter conditions?

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.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 2 – Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare


Chapter 2

Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare


Hardly had jolly, round, red Mr. Sun thrown off his rosy blankets and begun his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky when Peter Rabbit and his cousin, Jumper the Hare, arrived at the place in the Green Forest where Peter had found Mother Nature the day before. She was waiting for them, ready to answer questions.

“I am so glad you are here,” she said. “Now before either of you ask any questions, I am going to ask some myself. Peter, what do you look like? Where do you live? What do you eat? I want to find out just how much you really know about yourself.”

Peter scratched one ear with a long hind foot and hesitated as if he didn’t know just how to begin. Mother Nature waited patiently. Finally Peter began rather timidly.

“Well,” he said, “the only way I know how I look is by the way the other members of my family look, for I’ve never seen myself. I suppose in a way I look like all the rest of the Rabbit family. I have long hind legs and short front ones. I suppose this is so I can make long jumps when I am in a hurry.”

Peter Rabbit – original art by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature nodded, and Peter, taking this encouragement, continued. “My hind legs are stout and strong, and my front ones are lesser so. I guess this is because I do not have a great deal of use for them, except for running. My coat is a sort of mixture of brown and gray, more brown in summer and more gray in winter. My ears are longer for my size than are those of most animals, and really not very long after all, or not nearly as long for my size as my cousin Jumper’s are for his size. My tail is fluffy and short. It is so short that I carry it straight up. It is white like a little bunch of cotton, and I suppose that that is why I am called a Cottontail Rabbit, though I have heard that some folks call me a Gray Rabbit and others a Bush Rabbit.”

“I live in the dear Old Briar-patch and just love it. It is a mass of bushes and bramble-tangles and is the safest place I know of. I have cut little paths all through it just big enough for Mrs. Peter and myself. None of our predators can get at us there, excepting Shadow the Weasel or Billy Mink. I have a sort of nest there where I spend my time when I am not running about. It is called a form and I sit in it a great deal.”

Peter Rabbit’s home in the bramble-tangles in the meadow as seen in the snowy winter.

“In summer I eat clover, grass and other green things, and I just love to get over into Farmer Brown’s garden. In winter I have to take what I can get, and this is mostly bark from young trees, buds and tender twigs of bushes, and any green plants I can find under the snow. I can run fast for a short distance, however only for a short distance. That is why I like thick brush and bramble-tangles. There I can dodge. I don’t know any one who can dodge better! If Reddy Fox or Bowser the Hound surprises me away from the dear Old Briar-patch I run for the nearest hollow log or hole in the ground. Sometimes in summer I dig a hole for myself, although not often. It is much easier to use a hole somebody else has dug. When I want to signal my friends I thump the ground with my hind feet. Jumper does the same thing. And I almost forgot to say I don’t like water.”

Mother Nature smiled. “You are thinking of that cousin of yours, the Marsh Rabbit who lives way down in the Sunny South,” she said.

Peter admitted that he was. Jumper the Hare was interested all at once. You see, he had never heard of this cousin.

“That was a very good account of yourself, Peter,” said Mother Nature. “Now take a look at your cousin, Jumper the Hare, and tell me how he differs from you.”

Jumper the Hare, also known as the Northern or Varying Hare, in both his winter (right) and summer (left) coat. Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Peter took a long look at Jumper, and then, as before, scratched one ear with a long hind foot. “In the first place,” he said, “Jumper is considerably bigger than I. He has very long hind legs and his ears are very long. In summer he wears a brown coat and in the winter he is all white except for just the tips of his ears which are black. Because his coat changes so, he is called the varying Hare. He likes the Green Forest where the trees grow close together, especially those places where there are a great many young trees. He’s the biggest member of our family. I guess that’s all I know about Cousin Jumper.”

“That is very good, Peter, as far as it goes,” said Mother Nature. “I just have one correction to make. Jumper is not the biggest of his family.”

Both Peter and Jumper opened their eyes very wide with surprise. “Also,” continued Mother Nature, “you forgot to mention the fact that Jumper never hides in hollow logs and holes in the ground as you do. Can you explain why you don’t Jumper?”

“I wouldn’t feel safe there,” replied Jumper. “I depend on my long legs for safety, and the way I can dodge around trees and bushes. I suppose Reddy Fox may be fast enough to catch me in the open, and yet he can’t do it where I can dodge around trees and bushes. That is why I stick to the Green Forest. If you please, Mother Nature, what is this about a cousin who likes to swim?”

Mother Nature’s eyes twinkled. “We’ll get to that later on,” she said. “Now, each of you hold up a hind foot and tell me what difference you see.”

Peter and Jumper each held up a hind foot and each looked first at his own and then at the other’s. “They look to me very much alike, only Jumper’s is a lot longer and bigger than mine,” said Peter. Jumper nodded as if he agreed.

“Look a bit closer,” encouraged Mother Nature. “Do you see that Jumper’s foot is a great deal broader than yours, Peter, and that his toes are spread apart, while yours are close together?”

Peter and Jumper were surprised, for it was just as Mother Nature had said. Jumper’s foot really was quite different from that of Peter. Peter’s was narrow and slim.

“That is a very important difference,” Mother Nature noted. “Can you guess why I gave you those big feet, Jumper?”

Jumper slowly shook his head. “Not unless it was to simply make me different,” he said.

“Well,” said Mother Nature, “What happens to those big feet of yours in the winter, Jumper?”

“Nothing that I know of, excepting that the hair grows out long between my toes,” Jumper replied.

“Exactly,” agreed Mother Nature. “And when the hair does this you can travel over light snow without sinking in. It is just as if you had snowshoes. That is why you are often called a Snowshoe Rabbit. I gave you those big feet and make the hair grow out every winter because I know that you depend on your legs to get away from your predators. You can run over the deep snow where your predators break through. Peter, though he is small and lighter than you are, cannot go where you can. Although Peter doesn’t need to depend always on his legs to save his life. There is one thing more that I want you both to notice, and that is that you both have quite a lot of short hairs on the soles of you feet. That is where you differ from that cousin of yours down in the Sunny South. He has only a very few hairs on his feet. That is so he can swim better.”

“If you please, Mother Nature, why is that cousin of ours so fond of the water?” piped up Peter.

Marsh Rabbit (or Marsh Hare) that lives down south and likes to swim.
Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Because,” replied Mother Nature, “he lives in marshy country where there is a great deal of water. He is very nearly the same size as you, Peter, and looks very much like you. But his legs are not quite so long, his ears are a little smaller, and his tail is brownish instead of white. He is a poor runner and so in time of danger he takes to the water. For that matter, he goes swimming for pleasure. The water is warm down there, and he dearly loves to paddle about in it. If a Fox chases him he simply plunges into the water and hides among the water plants with only his eyes and his nose out of water.”

“Does he make his home in the water like Jerry Muskrat?” asked Peter innocently.

Mother Nature smiled and shook her head. “Certainly not,” she replied. “His home is on the ground. His babies are born in a nest made just as Mrs. Peter Rabbit makes her nest for your babies, and Mrs. Jumper Hare makes a nest for Jumper’s babies. It is made of grass and lined with soft fur which Mrs. Rabbit pulls from her own breast, and it is very carefully hidden. By the way, Peter how do your babies differ from the babies of your Cousin Jumper?”

Peter shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “I do know my babies don’t have their eyes open when they are born and they haven’t any hair.”

Jumper pricked up his long ears and said “Truly? Why, my babies have their eyes open and have the dearest little fur coats!”

Mother Nature chuckled. “That is the difference,” she said. “I guess both of you have learned something.”

“You said a little while ago that Jumper isn’t the biggest of our family,” said Peter. “If you please, who is?”

“There are several bigger than Jumper,” replied Mother Nature, and smiled as she saw the funny look of surprise on the faces of Peter and Jumper. “There is one way up in the Frozen North and there are two cousins way out in the Great West. They are as much bigger than Jumper as Jumper is bigger than you, Peter. I haven’t time to tell you about them right now. However, if you really want to learn about them please be here promptly at sun-up tomorrow morning. Well Hello! Here comes Reddy Fox, and he looks to me as if he is searching for a good breakfast . Let me see what you have learned about taking care of yourselves.”

Peter and Jumper gave one startled look in the direction Mother Nature was pointing. Sure enough, there was Reddy Fox. Not far away was a hollow log. Peter wasted no time in getting to it. In fact, he left in such a hurry that he forgot to say goodbye to Mother Nature. She didn’t mind, for she quite understood Peter’s urgency, and she laughed when she saw his funny little white tail disappear inside the hollow log. As for Jumper, he promptly took to his long legs and disappeared with great bounds and Reddy Fox racing right after him.

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

  1. Is there a “mirror” in the field or forest that Peter Rabbit could use to see how he looks? What might this be?
  2. Draw two very large circles that overlap and fill up your page. Where the two circles overlap in the middle write the things both Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare have in common. Then separately in each remaining half of each circle write the special traits they each have that the other one does not. Note: The two overlapping circles template is called a Venn Diagram and is used to compare and contrast two things.
  3. What is the purpose of Peter Rabbit’s long legs and short tail?
  4. What specific location does Peter Rabbit like to call home in or near the Green Meadows and on the edge of the Green Forest? Why is this his favorite spot? Have you ever ventured in to one and been snagged in it?
  5. Does Jumper the Hare prefer the meadow or the forest? Why?
  6. How do their feet differ? What are there uses?
  7. Visit this LINK to see photos of rabbits and to learn more about their habits from the Mass Audubon Society.
  8. *Have you observed a rabbit? How does the nose move in relation to the mouth? Focus on the upper lip, what purpose does it serve? How does the rabbit eat in the summer vs. the winter and how would this special upper lip help? What are the teeth used for specifically? What are the whiskers for?

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.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 1 – Mother Nature Knows Best


Chapter 1

Mother Nature Knows Best


“As sure as the sun will rise, Peter Rabbit, some day I will catch you,” snarled Reddy Fox, as he poked his black nose in the hole between the roots of the Big Hickory tree which grows close to the Smiling Pool. “It is lucky for you that you were not one jump farther away from this hole.”

Peter, safe inside that hole, didn’t have a word to say, or, if he did, he didn’t have breath enough to say it. It was quite true that if he had been one jump farther from that hole, Reddy Fox would have caught him. As it was, the hairs on Peter’s funny white tail actually had tickled Reddy’s back as Peter plunged frantically through the root-bound entrance to that hole. It had been the narrowest escape Peter had had for a long, long time. You see, Reddy Fox had surprised Peter nibbling sweet clover on the bank of the Smiling Pond, and it had been a lucky thing for Peter that that hole, dug long ago by Johnny Chuck’s grandfather, had
been right where it was. Also, it was a lucky thing that old Mr. Chuck had been wise enough to make the entrance between the roots of that tree in such a way that it could not be dug any larger.

Sweet Clover nibbled by Peter Rabbit

Reddy Fox was too shrewd to waste any time trying to dig it larger. He knew there wasn’t room enough for him to get between those roots. So, Reddy trotted off across the Green Meadows. Peter remained where he was for a long time. When he was quite sure that it was safe to do so, he crept out and hurried, lipperty-lipperty-lip, up to the Old Orchard. He felt that that would be the safest place for him, because there were ever so many hiding places in the old stone wall.

When Peter reached the Old Orchard he was pleasantly surprised to see his friend Jenny Wren. Jenny had arrived that very morning from the Sunny South where she had spent the entire winter. “Tut, tut, tut!” exclaimed Jenny as soon as she saw Peter. “If it isn’t Peter Rabbit himself! How did you manage to keep out of the clutches of Reddy Fox all the long winter?”

Peter chuckled. “I didn’t have much trouble with Reddy during the winter,” he said , “however, this very morning he nearly caught me and it is a wonder that my hair is not snow white from fright.” Then he told Jenny all about his narrow escape. “Had it not been for that handy hole of Grandfather Chuck, I couldn’t possibly have escaped,” Peter concluded.

An apple tree in the Old Orchard beginning to blossom.

Jenny Wren cocked her little head to one side and her sharp little eyes snapped. “By the way Peter, why don’t you learn to swim like your cousin down in the Sunny South?” she asked. “If he had been in your place, he would have simply plunged into the Smiling Pool and swam away from Reddy Fox.”

Peter sat bolt upright with his eyes very wide open. In them was a funny look of surprise as he stared up at Jenny Wren. “What are you talking about, Jenny Wren?” he asked. “Don’t you know that none of the Rabbit family swim unless it is to cross the Laughing Brook when there is no other way of getting to the other side, or when actually driven into the water by an enemy from whom there is no other escape? I can swim a little if I have to, although you won’t catch me in the water if I can stay on land. What is more, you won’t find any other members of my family doing such a thing either.”

“Tut, tut, tut, Peter!” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “I wonder how much you really know about your own family. How many relatives do you have Peter?”

“One,” replied Peter promptly, “my big cousin, Jumper the Hare.”

“Oh my, well I have to say,” said Jenny Wren, “while I’m way down in the Sunny South where I spend the winters, I’ve met a cousin of yours who is more closely related to you than Jumper the Hare. And what is more, he is almost as fond of the water as Jerry Muskrat. He is called the Marsh Rabbit or Marsh Hare, and many a time I have watched him swimming about by the hour.”

Peter Rabbit talking with Jenny Wren at the Stone Wall in the Old Orchard. Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Truly, it is hard to believe that there is a hare fond of water!” declared Peter. “I belong to the Cottontail branch of the Hare family, and it is a fine family if I do say so. My cousin Jumper is a true Hare, and the only difference between us is that he is bigger, has longer legs and ears, changes the color of his coat in winter, and seldom, if ever, goes into holes in the ground. So the idea of you trying to tell me I have more relatives that I don’t even know is surprising to say the least.”

Jenny Wren suddenly became serious. “Peter,” she said very earnestly, “take my advice and go see Mother Nature and learn what you can from her. What I have told you is true, every word of it. You have a cousin down in the Sunny South who spends half his time in the water. What is more, I suspect that you and Jumper have other relatives of whom you’ve never heard. Truly, go see Mother Nature as she is so wise and always knows best.” With this, Jenny Wren flew away to find Mr. Wren so that they might decide where to make their home for the summer.

Peter wondered. Could it be possible that Jenny Wren was right? Could it be that he really didn’t know what relatives he had or anything about them? Of course Mother Nature could tell him all he wanted to know. And he knew that whatever she might tell him would be true.

Finally with curiosity Peter started for the Green Forest to look for Mother Nature. It didn’t take long to find her. She was very busy, for there is no time in all the year when Mother Nature has quite so much to do as in the spring.

Peter finds Mother Nature in the Green Forest

“If you please, Mother Nature,” said Peter in a very polite voice, “I’ve some questions I want to ask you.”

Mother Nature’s eyes twinkled in a kindly way. “All right, Peter,” she replied. “I guess I can talk and work at the same time. What is it you want to know?”

“I want to know if it is true that there are any other members of the Rabbit and the Hare family besides my big cousin, Jumper, who lives here in the Green Forest, and myself.”

Mother Nature’s eyes twinkled more than ever. “Why, of course, Peter,” she replied. “There are several other members. I suppose you don’t know this because you have never have traveled beyond the Green Forest.”

Peter looked very humble. “Is it true that way down in the Sunny South I have a cousin who loves to spend his time in the water?” Peter asked.

“It certainly is,” replied Mother Nature. “He is called the Marsh Rabbit, and he is more nearly your size, and looks more like you, than any of your other cousins.”

Peter gulped as if he were swallowing something that went down hard. “That is what Jenny Wren said, however I found it hard to believe her,” replied Peter. “She said she had often watched him swimming about like Jerry Muskrat.”

Mother Nature nodded. “Quite true,” she said. “He is quite as much at home in the water as on land, if anything a little more so. He is one member the family who takes to the water, and he certainly does love it. Is there anything else you want to know, Peter?”

Peter shifted about uneasily and hesitated. “What is it, Peter?” asked Mother Nature kindly. “There is nothing in this Great World better than asking a question. Ask any question you like.”

Peter took heart. “If you please, Mother Nature, I would like to learn all about my family. May I come to see you every day to learn more?”

Mother Nature smiled. “Certainly you may come to learn with me, Mr. Curiosity,” she said. “It is a good idea; a very good idea. I’m very busy, as you can see, however I’m never too busy to share with those who really want to learn. We’ll have a session here every morning just at sun-up. I can’t do any more today as it is getting late. Run along home to the dear Old Briar-patch and think up some questions to ask me tomorrow morning. And, by the way, Peter, I will ask YOU some questions too. For one thing I shall ask YOU to tell me all you know about your own family. Now scamper along and I’ll see you tomorrow morning right here at sun-up.”

“Mother Nature, may I bring my cousin, Jumper the Hare, if he wants to come along?” asked Peter.

“Yes, bring him and anyone else who wants to learn,” replied Mother Nature kindly.

Peter bade her goodbye in his most polite manner and then scampered as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip, to the dear Old Briar-patch. There he spent the remainder of the day thinking up questions and also trying to find out how much he really did know about his own family.

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

  1. Do you have cotton-tail rabbits where you live? How do you know?
  2. What signs have you seen to inform you that rabbits live in your yard, neighborhood, or nearby field and forest area?
  3. Do you think Peter Rabbit’s cousin, Jumper the Hare, lives nearby you too? Why or why not?
  4. *Have you discovered rabbit tracks in the snow? Which direction was the rabbit going? Lipperty-lipperty-lip! Were the tracks made at night or during the day? How are the feet of a rabbit protected so they do not freeze in the snow?
  5. Visit this LINK at the Mass Audubon Society for a preview of more to come on the topic of rabbits.

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.

Colorful Curious Capkins Contemplating Cotton-tail tracks and a “Hello to 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.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Deer BOOK LOOK -Chapter 2- The Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer

Original 1921 story written by Thornton Burgess now revised for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 2 –

Lightfoot the Deer’s New Antlers


Peter Rabbit was puzzled and curious again. He stared at Lightfoot the Deer a wee bit suspiciously. “Have you been tearing somebody’s coat?” he asked.

He didn’t like to think this of Lightfoot, whom he always had believed was quite gentle, harmless, and as timid as himself. However, what else could he think as he looked upon those rags hanging from his antlers?

Lightfoot slowly shook his head. “No,” he said, “I haven’t torn anybody’s coat.”

“Then what are those rags hanging on your antlers?” inquired Peter.

Lightfoot chuckled. “They are what is left of the coverings of my new antlers,” he explained.

“What’s that? What do you mean by new antlers?” Peter was sitting up very straight, with his eyes fixed on Lightfoot’s antlers as though he never had seen them before.

“Just what I said,” repeated Lightfoot. “What do you think of them? I think they are the finest antlers I’ve ever had. When I get the rest of those rags off, they will be as handsome a set as ever was grown in the Green Forest.”

Lightfoot rubbed his antlers against the trunk of a tree until some of the rags hanging on them dropped off.

Peter blinked very hard. He was trying to understand the meaning of this and he couldn’t. Finally he said so.

“I do not understand. Do you mean to tell me that those are not the antlers that you have had as long as I’ve known you? How can anything hard like those antlers grow? This sounds impossible! And if those are new ones, where are the old ones? The idea of trying to make me believe that antlers grow just like plants! I’ve seen Bossy the Cow all summer and I know she has got the same horns she had last summer. New antlers indeed!”

“You are quite right, Peter, quite right about Bossy the Cow. She never has new horns, and yet that isn’t any reason why I shouldn’t have new antlers, is it?” replied Lightfoot patiently. “Her horns are quite different from my antlers. I have a new pair every year. You haven’t seen me all summer, have you, Peter?”

“No, I don’t remember that I have,” replied Peter, trying very hard to remember when he had last seen Lightfoot.

“I know you haven’t,” said Lightfoot. “I know it because I have been hiding in a place you never visit.”

“What have you been hiding for?” Peter asked with great curiosity.

“For my new antlers to grow,” replied Lightfoot. “When my new antlers are growing, I want to be away by myself. I don’t like to be seen without them or with half grown ones. Besides, I am very uncomfortable while the new antlers are growing and I want to be alone.”

Lightfoot spoke as if he really meant every word he said, and still Peter couldn’t believe that those wonderful great antlers had grown out of Lightfoot’s head in a single summer. “Where did you leave your old ones and when did they come off?” he asked.

“They dropped off last spring and I don’t remember just where,” replied Lightfoot. “I was too glad to be rid of them to notice where they dropped. You see they were loose and uncomfortable, and I hadn’t any more use for them because I knew that my new ones would be bigger and better. I’ve got one more point on each than I had last year.” Lightfoot began once more to rub his antlers against the tree to get off the odd rags hanging to them and to polish the points. Peter watched in silence for a few minutes. Then, with his curiosity returning, he said: “You still haven’t told me everything about those rags hanging on your antlers.”


One of Lightfoot’s antlers found left behind in the Green Forest.

It is hard to believe what seems impossible. And yet what seems impossible to you may be a very commonplace matter to some one else. Peter Rabbit wanted to believe what Lightfoot the Deer had just told him, and yet somehow he found it confusing. If he had seen those antlers growing, it would have been another matter. However, he had only seen Lightfoot in the winter, and then Lightfoot had worn just such handsome antlers as he now had. So Peter really couldn’t be blamed for not being able to believe that those old ones had been lost and in their place new ones had grown in just the few months of spring and summer.

“I’m trying to believe you,” Peter said, quite humbly.

“It’s all true,” broke in another voice.

Peter jumped and turned to find his big cousin, Jumper the Hare. Unseen and unheard, he had come up behind them and had overheard what Peter and Lightfoot had said.

“How do you know it is true?” Peter asked for confirmation.

“Because I saw Lightfoot’s old antlers after they had fallen off, and I often saw Lightfoot while his new ones were growing,” Jumper replied.

“All right! I’ll believe anything that Lightfoot tells me if you say it is true,” declared Peter, who greatly admires his cousin, Jumper. “Now Lightfoot, please tell me about those rags.”

Lightfoot couldn’t resist the “please.”

“Those rags are what is left of a kind of covering which protected the antlers while they were growing” he said. “Very soon after my old ones dropped off the new ones began to grow. They were not hard, not at all like they are now. They were soft and very tender, and the blood ran through them just as it does through our bodies. They were covered with a sort of skin with hairs on it like thin fur. The ends were not sharply pointed as they are now, rather they were big and rounded, like knobs. They were not like antlers at all, and they made my head hot and were very uncomfortable. That is why I hid away. They grew very fast, so fast that every day I could see by looking at my reflection in water that they were a little longer. It seemed to me sometimes as if all my strength went into those new antlers. And I had to be very careful not to hit them against anything. In the first place it would have hurt, and in the second place it might have spoiled the shape of them.

“When they had grown to the length you now see, they began to shrink and grow hard. The knobs on the ends shrank until they became pointed. As soon as they stopped growing the blood stopped flowing up in them, and as they became hard they were no longer tender. The skin which had covered them grew dry and split, and I rubbed it off on trees and bushes. The little rags you see are what is left, and I will soon be rid of those too. Then I shall be ready to defend myself if need be.”

Lightfoot tossed his head proudly and rattled his wonderful antlers against the nearest tree. “Isn’t he a sight to see,” whispered Peter to Jumper the Hare; “and did you ever hear of anything so wonderful as the growing of those new antlers in such a short time? Amazing.”

“It is,” replied Jumper, “and I tell you, Peter, I wouldn’t want to have Lightfoot try those antlers on me, beautiful as they are.”


This is the Green Forest where Lightfoot hides in the Spring & Summer and rubs his antlers on tree trunks to remove the ‘rag’ skin covering.

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. What is the difference between antlers and horns?
  2. Who has horns? Who has antlers?
  3. Have you seen deer near your home? Where are they often seen? What time of day is it?
  4. Have you seen a buck with antlers? How many points?
  5. What other signs could you look for to know a deer was nearby? Hint: What is scat?
  6. Try using a book like Scats and Tracks of the Northeast to clearly identify what you’ve discovered in the fields or forest!

P.L.A.Y. presents . . .

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Arriving January 2021!

Deer BOOK LOOK -Chapter 1- The Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer

Original 1921 story written by Thornton Burgess is now revised for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 1 –

How Lightfoot the Deer Learned to Jump


Peter Rabbit was filled with awe. It was this way from the very first time he saw Lightfoot the Deer leap over a fallen tree, and forever after, whenever he saw Lightfoot, he had a little of that same feeling stirred in his heart.

You see, Peter has always been very proud of his own powers of jumping. To be sure Jumper the Hare could jump higher and farther than he could, and Jumper is his own cousin, so it was all in the family, so to speak, and Peter didn’t mind. However, to see Lightfoot the Deer go sailing over the tops of the bushes and over the fallen trees as if he had springs in his legs was quite another matter.

“I wish I could jump like that,” said Peter out loud one day, as he stood with his hands on his hips watching Lightfoot leap over a pile of brush.

“Why don’t you learn to?” asked Jimmy Skunk with a mischievous twinkle in his eye which Peter couldn’t see. “Lightfoot couldn’t always jump like that; he had to learn. Why don’t you find out how? Probably Grandfather Frog knows all about it. He knows just about everything. If I were you, I’d ask him.”

“Oh I don’t know,” replied Peter. “I’ve asked him so many questions that I am afraid he’ll think me a nuisance. I tell you what, Jimmy, you ask him!” Peter’s eyes brightened as he said this.

Jimmy chuckled. “If there is anything you want to know from Grandfather Frog, you really need to ask him yourself. That really is the best way to understand. Truthfully, I don’t want to know how Lightfoot learned to jump or if he can jump over the moon, if you please. I have other important matters on my mind. Have you seen any fat beetles this morning, Peter?”

“Actually no,” replied Peter. “I’m not really interested in fat beetles so I’ve not noticed.”

Jimmy laughed. It was a good-natured, chuckling kind of a laugh. “Well, here’s hoping that you learn how to jump like Lightfoot the Deer and that I get a stomach full of fat beetles.”

And with that Jimmy Skunk slowly ambled along down the Crooked Little Path.

Peter watched him out of sight, sighed, and started for the dear Old Briar-patch, stopped, sighed again, and then headed straight for the Smiling Pool. Grandfather Frog was there on his big green lily pad, and Peter wasted no time.


Grandfather Frog’s lily pad pond

“Grandfather Frog, how did Lightfoot the Deer learn to jump so splendidly?” he blurted out almost before he had stopped running.

Grandfather Frog blinked his great googly eyes. “Chug-a-rum!” he said. “If you’ll join me by jumping across the Laughing Brook over there where it comes into the Smiling Pool, I’ll tell you.”

Peter looked at the Laughing Brook in dismay. It was quite wide at that point. “I don’t think I can,” he said with hesitation.

“Then I won’t be able to tell you how Lightfoot learned to jump unless you join me,” replied Grandfather Frog, quite as if the matter were settled.

“OK, I’ll try!” Peter hastened to blurt out.

“All right. While you are trying, I’ll see if I can remember the story,” replied Grandfather Frog.

Peter went back a little so as to get a good start. Then he ran as hard as he knew how, and when he reached the bank of the Laughing Brook, he jumped with all his might. It was a good jump—a splendid jump—although it wasn’t quite enough of a jump, and Peter landed with a great splash in the water!

Now Peter does not like the water, and though he can swim, he doesn’t feel at all at home in it. He paddled for the shore as fast as he could, and just before his feet touched bottom, he heard the great, deep voice of Grandfather Frog.

“That is just the way Lightfoot the Deer learned to jump—trying to do what he thought he couldn’t do and keeping at it until he could. It all happened a great while ago when the world was young.”

Peter shook himself off and layed down in the sunniest spot he could find to dry out and still be within hearing distance to listen to Grandfather Frog’s story.

“Lightfoot’s great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather was named Lightfoot the Deer too,” continued Grandfather Frog in his best story-telling voice.

“He had slim legs just like Lightfoot has now and just such wonderful, branching antlers. When he was in the season where he had a rack of antlers, he was not much afraid of anybody. Those enemies swift enough of foot to catch him he could successfully fight with his antlers, and those too big and strong for him to fight were not swift enough to catch him. However, there was a season in every year when he had no antlers, as is the case with Lightfoot. Every spring Lightfoot loses his antlers and through the summer a new pair grows. It was so with Old Mr. Deer of that long-ago time, and when he lost those great antlers, he felt very helpless and timid.”


Open meadow where Old Mr. Deer of long ago use to run along the edge of the Green Forest.

“Old Mr. Deer loved the open meadows and spent most of his time there. When he had to run, he wanted nothing in the way of his slim legs. And how he could run! My, my, my, how he could run! However, there were others who could run swiftly in those days too, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Dog. Mr. Deer always had a feeling that someday one or the other would catch him. When he had his antlers, this thought didn’t worry him much, and yet when he lost his antlers, it worried him a great deal. He felt perfectly helpless then. ‘The thing for me to do is to keep out of sight,’ he said to himself, and so instead of going out on the meadows and in the open places, he hid among the bushes and in the brush on the edge of the Green Forest and behind the fallen trees in the Green Forest.”

“One thing did trouble Old Mr. Deer, who wasn’t old at that time, you know. He couldn’t run fast at all among the bushes and the fallen trees and the old logs. This was a new worry, and it troubled him almost as much as the old worry. He felt that he was in a dreadful fix. You see, hard times had come, and the big and strong were preying on the weak and small in order to live.”

” ‘If I stay out on the meadows, I cannot fight if I am caught; and if I stay here, I cannot run fast if I am found. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! What shall I do?’ cried Old Mr. Deer, as he lay hidden among the branches of a fallen hemlock-tree.”

“Just at that very minute along came Mr. Hare, the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of your cousin Jumper. A big log was in his path, and he jumped over it as lightly as a feather. Old Mr. Deer watched him and sighed. If only he could jump like that in proportion to his size, he would just jump over the bushes and the fallen logs and the fallen trees instead of trying to run around them or squeeze between them.”

“And then he had an idea. Why shouldn’t he learn to jump? He could try, anyway. So when he was sure that no one was around to see him, he practiced jumping over little low bushes. At first he couldn’t do much, so he kept trying and trying, and little by little he jumped higher. It was hard work, and he scraped his slim legs many times when he tried to jump over old logs and stumps.”

“Now all this time some one actually had been watching him, though he didn’t know it. It was Old Mother Nature. One day she stopped him as he was trotting along a path. ‘What is this you are doing when you think no one is watching?’ she asked curiously. ‘I’ve given you beauty and speed, what more do you need?’ Old Mr. Deer explained to Mother Nature why he wanted to learn to jump. Mother Nature heard him through. ‘Let me see you jump over that bush,’ she said pointing to a bush almost as high as Old Mr. Deer himself.

” ‘Oh, I can’t jump nearly as high as that!’ he cried. Then tossing his head proudly, he added, ‘Although I’ll give it a try.’ So just as Peter Rabbit tried to jump the Laughing Brook when he felt sure that he couldn’t, Old Mr. Deer tried to jump the bush. Just imagine how surprised he was when he sailed over it without even touching the top of it with his hooves! Mother Nature had given him in that moment the gift of jumping as a reward for his perseverance and because she saw that he really had need of it.”

“So ever since that long-ago day, the Deer have lived where the brush is thickest and the Green Forest most tangled, because they are such great jumpers that they can travel faster there.”

“Now, Peter, what do you think of that tale?”

“I think I would you like to try to jump over the Laughing Brook again!” said Peter.

And off he went lipperty-lipperty-SPLASH!

The Laughing Brook . . . lipperty-lipperty-SPLASH!
  1. What other animals of the fields and forest come to mind when you think of great jumpers?
  2. When you go outdoors test your own jumping skills by finding snow or mud and see how far you can leap and measure the distance between your footprints. Or make a mark in the sand or lay down a rope to stand on top of and then jump forward and have a family member measure the distance between. How far did you go? Can you jump further with practice just like Lightfoot and his relatives?
  3. Visit your favorite local forest and try out your new jumping skills to get across a small stream or to go over a log just like a deer. Perhaps come up with a sing-song rhyme that helps get you over every time! Or say with each footstep and then leap “1-2-3 look at me-e-e-e-e-e-e!”
  4. Can you capture what this jumping feels like in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal? What colors or shapes or words describe it best? Interview your family and ask what their experience feels like too!
  5. If you find deer tracks in the snow look for where they sometimes leap and measure it with your own foot steps (one boot toe to heel in front of the other) and then measure your foot in inches/centimeters when you get home to see how far the deer jumped.
Deer tracks in the snow

P.L.A.Y. presents . . .

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Arriving January 2021!

SKYscape Simplicity #56: A Meditative Moment


❤ ❤ ❤


Look skyward

< Breathe In >

< Breathe Out >

Take a moment to watch the clouds roll by and connect to the calm and beauty of nature that is always there for you.

*Bonus*

By any chance did you notice the two-eared hippy-hoppy fluffy friend up in the clouds floating above the green meadow?

Now how in the world did Peter Rabbit get up there?!?

❤ ❤ ❤

Wishing you much peace & prosperity throughout your P.L.A.Y. days.


❤ ❤ ❤


peace: inner calm

prosperity: good fortune & well-being