Day: June 13, 2020

by Thornton W. Burgess

This little book has three storylines. In the first two chapters, Peter Rabbit decides he doesn\’t like his name and is going to go by Peter Cottontail. Which is silly, because it\’s not that different from his current name. Even sillier is that he puts on airs to seem like someone different, and refuses to answer to his old name. His friends soon use this to play a trick on him, which makes Peter realize it was a mistake and drop the name change.
Then for many chapters Peter, some of the other little animals and Reddy Fox repeatedly pull pranks on each other, some just for laughs, and others to get even with those who had tricked them. Not sure that exactly sends a good message! A big part of this is Reddy trying to catch Peter so his sick Granny Fox can eat a rabbit dinner. Of course he doesn\’t, because none of the named characters in the books ever do get eaten- although Reddy eats unnamed chickens, mice, etc in other stories. So you know well he\’s a predator but the banter between him and Peter Rabbit make it seem half in jest. The fox gets frustrated after trying many different methods to catch Peter and finally gets the weasel to help him out, but even though the weasel can fit into Peter\’s narrow paths among the brambles, he too gets foiled and Peter stays safe. In another part the fox runs into a wasp nest, gets stung and his face swells up. He plasters it with mud and the other animals make fun of him, but then become bold around the fox, seeing that he\’s hurt. Reddy then tries to pretend he\’s still disabled after feeling better so he can catch someone, to no avail.
The final part of the book has Peter puzzled at the actions of some of his friends, who are preparing for the winter- squirrels burying nuts, the woodchuck absolutely stuffing his face, and he is astonished when he sees Grandfather Frog bury himself in the mud. He doesn\’t seem to know anything about how other animals hibernate or migrate to avoid the winter cold. When someone clues him in that his friends the skunk, raccoon and others sleep most of the winter, Peter thinks this is a fine idea and determines to try it himself. Of course it doesn\’t work, and when the others realize what he\’s doing, they play another trick on him. 

Not quite as engaging as some of the other Burgess I\’ve read, but still a fun little book. I don\’t have a hardcopy, this one\’s on my e-reader.


Rating: 3/5               120 pages, 1914

A Grosset All-Color Guide
by Michael Boorer

Wanted to read a book about a bobcat or lynx, and I don\’t have any that specific. This one is an overview of all wild cats (featuring a lynx on the frontispiece). It has the basics. How they evolved, structures of a cat\’s body, a few pages about domestic cats. Then it dives into the wild cats. All the small cats- ocelots, servals and bobcats to the flat-headed cat, kodkod and jaguarundi- get just a few paragraphs, with the exception of the puma that has a several pages with more details on behavior. Most of the cats it\’s very minimal information- distribution range, how many young in a litter, size and markings, what they eat. Beyond that, very little is consistent. For example some wild cats the book told me the gestation period, others there\’s no info on that. Maybe because it wasn\’t known? It is a rather old book. Names thirty-six feline species whereas the count I found online goes up to forty, depending on if some are actually considered subspecies or not. (Here\’s the lynx)

The last part of the book has the big cats: tiger, lion, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard and cheetah. This is more interesting; it goes into a lot more details about behavior and especially interactions with man. I did learn some surprising facts, such as that snow leopards have been found to make a den in vulture nests. Tigers will eat carrion or remains of their prey that have partly spoiled in the heat, if they are hungry enough. The book does have some old ideas, though- such as that cats are mostly driven by unthinking instinct, and will react the same way to a situation every time. It describes how lion-tamers are able to intimidate the big cats in order to display them for the public, and matter-of-factly relates how tigers, leopards and lions were hunted for sport (also with some notes about man-killers). Then there\’s this odd tidbit:

Lion hunting as a sport became really popular at the beginning of the twentieth century. This was the period when a man disappointed in love was supposed- if he could afford it- to redirect his resentment toward the fauna of Africa. 

Really?  Men who felt jilted used to go off and blast animals to make themselves feel better? I\’m sure some of them did, but I never realized it was a socially accepted thing to do so. I had more of the impression men went on safari hunting trips to show off, bag trophies, or just enjoy their marksmanship skill. Anybody heard this before? On a smaller note, I did find it odd that the author described the base coat color of tigers and leopards as brown, but said that cheetahs are yellow-tawny. Hm, I\’ve always thought of tigers as basically orange, and leopards as yellowish.

Overall, an interesting little book if you\’re into cats, or just want to gather some facts on them. However a lot of the unknowns when this was printed are spelled out elsewhere now, and most kids would of course just look stuff up online anyway. I do really like the illustrations by Peter Warner (they look like gouache paintings). Here\’s some samples- ocelot:

Sand cat:

\’King\’ cheetah:

Nevertheless, if I ever have to cull my library because of space issues, I\’m afraid this one will probably go. I have other books on wild cats that are more comprehensive and more current.

Rating: 3/5            159 pages, 1969

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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