Thornton W. Burgess is the author of many loveable children’s stories; he is best known for his ones about the animals of Green Forest.
Chatterer the Red Squirrel has behaved very foolishly indeed. He should have known better than to tease Bobby Coon, even though it is so fun to dance around him and chatter noisily. It was that very noisy chattering that had caused him to be chased by his deadliest enemy, Shadow the Weasel – that sneaking rodent whose small size allows him follow Chatterer even into the tiniest holes. Chatterer has escaped Shadow, for now, but he knows that Shadow will never rest easy until he has captured him. What to do?
Chatterer decides that the only option is to move out of his home and seek adventures abroad. He makes a new home by the Old Stone Wall near Farmer Brown’s farm. But when Chatterer’s greed causes him to get caught in one of Farmer Brown’s traps, will he be able to escape? Or will Chatterer be fed to Pussy the mean black cat?
As I already mentioned, I have read three of Mr. Burgess’s animal stories; Old Mother West Wind, The Adventures of Prickly Porky, and now The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel. Out of the three, Chatterer is by far my favorite.
Probably the reason for this, is that there are no references to the wind or the earth as being a ‘mother’ and neither of them have speaking roles (as they did in Old Mother West Wind and Prickly Porky). It is true that both trouble and the sun are refered to as ‘Mr.’, but they are not ascribed human-like qualities as the wind and earth were in the other two books.
I enjoyed the gentle moral lessons that Mr. Burgess incorporates into his stories. For example,
Chatterer was in a peck of trouble. Yes, Sir, a peck of trouble. There was no doubt about it. “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! If only I had kept my tongue still!” he kept saying over and over to himself, as he hurried through the Green Forest. You see, Chatterer was just beginning to realize what a lot of trouble an unruly tongue can get one into. [pg. 13]
I also liked this short verse and the section which immediately followed it.
Who ever does a deed that’s wrong
Will surely find some day
That for that naughty act of his
He’ll surely have to pay.
That was the way with Chatterer. Of course he had had no business to steal corn from Farmer Brown’s corn-crib. To be sure he had felt that he had just as much right to that corn as Farmer Brown had. You see, the little people of the Green Meadows and the Green Forest feel that everything that grows belongs to them, if they want it and are smart enough to get it before some one else does. But it is just there that Chatterer went wrong. Farmer Brown had harvested that corn and stored it in his corn-crib, and so, of course, no one else had any right to it. Right down deep in his heart Chatterer knew this. If he hadn’t known it, he wouldn’t have been so sly in taking what he wanted. He knew all the time that he was stealing, but he tried to make himself believe that it was all right. So he had kept on stealing and stealing until at last he was caught in a trap, and now he had got to pay for his wrong-doing. [pg. 48]
Ah, yes, the little people. There are several references to animals as ‘the little people’ – I’m not quite sure what the point is, but it’s easily remedied.
On one occasion, Chatterer nearly tells a lie that will make himself look far better with his friends than the truth. But instead of lying, he listens to the “little small voice inside” which tells him to tell the truth. Now, we can ask if squirrels really have consciences, (I believe that they don’t) but this is far better than Chatterer’s former reckless behavior.
Sometimes the little animals scold and call each other names (as is the nature of squirrels and blue jays). This is portrayed as partly normal and partly naughty. After teasing Bobby Coon, Chatterer does regret his actions, not because they were mean, but because they caused him to get chased by Shadow the Weasel.
Conclusion. A sweet story with true though simple moral lessons.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret