I feel like I’m a bit late to the party on this one. Thornton W. Burgess. The Burgess Books. What a treasure. I had heard great things about the author’s works, but I had not had any luck finding them at the local Salvos or Lifeline Book Fair and hadn’t got around to looking them up online (pretty silly, since I now realise they’re very cheap!). I do have The Burgess Book of Animals (printed by Living Book Press) but since it is a scheduled Ambleside Online book, I was saving it until then. In Facebook Groups, I constantly heard the wonderful reviews and saw pictures of fellow, albeit, internationally distant, homeschooling mothers stumbling across these gems at their local thrift stores and library sales. Envious, yes sir, I was unmistakeably envious.
My big moment came when I discovered LibriVox and the wonderful John Lieder (among others) who has recorded audio files of many of Burgess’ books. Now, every time we get in the car, my 4yo requests our current Burgess book. We have laughed at Reddy Fox, smiled with Johnny Chuck (my 4yo calls him “Jarny Chuck” with a drawl) and cheered for Peter Cottontail as he escaped trouble over and over again. Not only are these stories delightful and beloved, but there are so many to choose from!
I now know why they are so often suggested as read aloud stories for young children. The characters are charming and cheeky, and the stories are fun and lively. John Lieder does some great voices that really bring the characters to life (my personal favourite is his Ol’ Mistah Buzzard voice). Each book is about 1.5-2 hours which, for us, is easily able to be completed within a week. We have just started our fourth and have two more downloaded and ready to go. They certainly make our car trips fun and are enriching our lives with truth, beauty and goodness.
The Dover Children’s Thrift Classic versions are available through Amazon and the Book Depository quite cheaply. A number of the books (with hopefully more to come) have also recently been republished by Seagrass Press, complete with the original illustrations (although I am not sure if they are abridged). For those in Australia, these new editions are available through QBD Books. I think The Adventures of Reddy Fox (our favourite so far) is going to make a great birthday present to take to all the parties my boys get invited to. Whether you have these books on your shelf or not, I highly recommend that you check out the LibriVox audiobooks. They’re free, you can download them at home over wifi (so they don’t use your data), and they come with my 4 year old’s stamp of approval.
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