Title: Bedtime Story-Books series (or Green Forest Series)
Author: Thornton W. Burgess
Major Themes: Animals, Wildlife
Synopsis: A series of books for young children about the various animals who live in the Green Forest and the Green Meadows, and their interactions.
When I was young, I came across a few books by Thornton W. Burgess in friend’s homes. I absolutely loved them, and was thrilled when I found a few in the public library we went to every few weeks. I believe I read all the copies they had! The books had already been out of print for awhile at that time, but they have been brought back in print now. Burgess was a prolific author, writing over 170 books over a span of 50 years. Each book in the Bedtime Story-Books series focuses on one main animal in the forest, but that animal interacts with the other animals as well. Moral lessons are interspersed throughout the stories, but they are not overbearing. Most of the time, the animals act as they naturally would, although at times they are made almost too human. One thing I’m noticing now as an adult is that there is almost a tree-hugger slant to them! However, my sons are loving the stories as I read them aloud. The chapters are short enough that it’s easy to find a stopping place, or to read “just one more chapter”.
The Adventures of Bob White. Peter Rabbit knows that Mr. and Mrs. Bob White have a nest somewhere near the Dear Old Briar Patch—but he can’t find it anywhere, no matter how hard he searches! Reddy Fox and Old Granny Fox are searching for it, too, but for a different reason. Peter is amazed when Mrs. Bob shows up one day with 15 babies. Throughout the summer, Farmer Brown’s boy notices that their garden and wheat field are remarkably free of bugs, although the neighbors all around have major bug problems. Why? The Bob White family lives in the Brown’s garden and field, of course!
The Adventures of Buster Bear. Someone new has arrived in the Green Forest. Buster Bear wakes up one morning, hungry. He heads out to go fishing for breakfast, and finds Little Joe Otter just ready to eat a nice fat trout he has just caught. Little Joe takes off running—and wanting revenge. How will he get it? Later, the rumor goes around the Green Forest that Farmer Brown’s boy is afraid of Buster. Can the animals prove that? My boys loved hearing these stories.
The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel. Chatterer is running for his life as the story begins. He is being chased by Shadow the Weasel, and is sure he will be caught. How does he escape? Now, the Green Forest is too dangerous for him to live in, so he looks for another home. Then, he finds a vast storehouse of food—but finds out the hard way what happens to thieves. How will he escape from the new predicament he finds himself in?
The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny Meadow Mouse must be vigilant all the time, watching out for enemies. If it’s not Reddy Fox and Granny Fox trying to catch him, it is Hooty the Owl—and one night, Hooty found Danny away from his shelter. How can Danny escape Hooty’s talons? Danny ends up very thankful for Peter Rabbit’s kindness, and then one day he is able to return that kindness in this delightful tale.
The Adventures of Grandfather Frog. My sons loved this book just as much as they have enjoyed the rest of the Burgess books we’ve read in the past year. Grandfather Frog has always lived in the Smiling Pool and has been very happy there. When Old Mr. Toad tells him how wonderful the Great World is, he doesn’t feel the need to see it—until one day when he decides he just must see the Great World so that he knows what Old Mr. Toad is talking about! He takes off across the Green Meadow to see what he can see, but soon finds that he is not made for going overland. He persists, however, determined not to give up. What happens when Farmer Brown’s boy finds him?
The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat. Jerry Muskrat and his friends, Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog and Spotty the Turtle, have a problem. Suddenly, the Smiling Pool isn’t smiling and the Laughing Brook isn’t laughing! What has happened to the water? They set off upstream to find out what happened, and find a dam built across the Laughing Brook, way upstream in the Green Forest. Jerry Muskrat never knew he had a big cousin in the North who could build like that!
The Adventures of Johnny Chuck. Johnny Chuck is feeling very discontented this spring. When Jimmy Skunk tells him what a nice house he has, he snaps back that Jimmy Skunk can have it—and stomps off in a huff to find another place to live! Not until he meets Polly Chuck does he realize what his real problem was, and now it is solved. He has a new problem, though: can he keep Reddy Fox and Redtail the Hawk from discovering his new home and babies?
As in all of these books, there are wise sayings all through the book. I really liked the little poem in Chapter 22:
“When work there is that must be done
Don’t fret and whine and spoil the day!
The quicker that you do your work
The longer time you’ll have to play.”
The Adventures of Mr. Mocker. One morning, Unc Billy Possum thinks he hears the voice of an old friend of his. Forgetting all about finding food for his family, he spends the entire day searching, without success, for the owner of the voice. Sadly, he gives up the search. Soon, though, Sammy Jay is being accused of shrieking at odd hours of the night, when he is sure he is asleep. After that, Sticky-toes the Tree Toad is also accused of making noise when he is asleep. Eventually they solve the mystery, but then all the animals in the Green Forest start hearing their friends talking about them behind their backs, saying things that are not at all nice, and no one knows who he can trust anymore. Then, one day, Bobby Coon makes a discovery and Unc Billy Possum learns that he must treat others the way he wants to be treated.
The Adventures of Peter Cottontail. In this story, Peter Rabbit decides that his name is too common. He searches for a new, more exciting name. It doesn’t take long to decide that Peter Rabbit is right for him, though. Peter is constantly having to outwit Reddy Fox, who wants him for dinner, and then when he learns that his friends are hibernating for the winter, he wants to, as well. Learning contentment is a constant struggle for Peter!
The Adventures of Reddy Fox. Reddy Fox lives with Old Granny Fox. She teaches him to outsmart dogs, but her best trick doesn’t work on Bowser the Hound, who lives with Farmer Brown. When Bowser comes after Reddy, after Reddy steals Farmer Brown’s boy’s favorite hen, Reddy has great fun teasing Bowser and laying a complicated trail for him to sniff out. However, he forgets to watch out—and Farmer Brown’s boy is laying in wait with a gun. Poor Reddy has a hard lesson to learn. Some of the incidents in this story are not exactly true-to-life, but it’s a delightful tale.
The Adventures of Sammy Jay. As we were reading this story, we were chuckling about how the story seems to be an alternate plot to The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel, which was the last one we read in this series. Both stories involve Chatterer learning about the corn in Farmer Brown’s corn crib, but in his own book, he gets caught in the crib. In Sammy Jay’s book, he doesn’t, but Sammy blackmails Chatterer into fetching corn for him every time Sammy wants some! How can Chatterer outwit Sammy, both for the pleasure of being smarter than him and for his own safety? I found it humorous, as I was reading, that my boys all came up with the perfect solution for Chatterer, just a page or two before Chatterer himself thought it up.
The Adventures of Unc Billy Possum. Poor Unc Billy Possum is hungry for eggs, and finds his way into Farmer Brown’s hen house—but when Farmer Brown’s boy sets traps around while he is sleeping, he is stuck until snow covers the traps. Then, Farmer Brown’s boy is able to track him to his hiding place by his tracks in the snow, and Unc Billy is still stuck! He must learn that greed will often lead to a person’s downfall.
Blacky the Crow loves eggs. He is very surprised one morning, as he flies over the Green Forest, to see an egg in Redtail the Hawk’s abandoned nest. Who could be laying eggs in the winter? Does Blacky dare to try to get the egg? He investigates for several days, and then develops a plan to steal that egg, and maybe even the other one that appears. Does he succeed? Even though this story is fairly juvenile for my boys, they begged for more and more chapters.
Any child who enjoys animal stories will love the Bedtime Story-Books series. If animals talking bother you, they may not be for your family, however.
WARNING: As in the last paragraph.
Listening Level—Ages 3 – 4, 5 – 8
Reading Independently—Ages 5 – 6, 7 – 9