Jul 21, 2005

Since we're on the subject of children's literature, I feel compelled to point to what was perhaps my earliest experience with the novel: Thornton W. Burgess. Though I suspect my interest in these books was fueled largely by my love of Harrison Cady's illustrations. Burgess's world was engrossing, though; once you had entered, the repetition of characters and themes made for an incredibly vast-seeming community of anthropomorphosized animals. (Most likely similar to the books that Kasey and Ron mention). Burgess wrote around the turn of the cetnury so his stilted and idomatic language sounded exotic and arcane to a kid in the 70's. There was a novel for virtually every species of animal one was likely to encounter in the New England forest (Burgess was from Sandwich, MA)--what's more, Burgess was a naturalist and a realist--his love of animals extended to possums, muskrats, rats, wolves, coyotes, the lives of whom were explored with naturalistic detail and a humanistic eye (animal characters were motivated largely by hunger, protection of their families, etc.) which transcended (or at least looking back) the usual good/evil dichotomies of children's literature. The most questionable characters in these books are the humans. A lesson we all do well to learn early on.

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