HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Adventures of Mr. Mocker
Author: Thornton W. Burgess
Illustrator: Harrison Cady
Publisher: Dover Publications, republished in 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1463895655 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1463895658 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0486481012 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0486481018 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 3-9 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Burgess, Thornton W. The Adventures of Mr. Mocker (published in 1914 by Little Brown and Company, Boston, MA; republished in 1989 by Aeonian Press, Mattituck, NY). Did you ever “listen to the mockingbird”? Mr. Mocker is a mockingbird who has come from Ol’ Virginny to visit his friends Unc’ Billy Possum and Ol’ Mistah Buzzard who now live in the beautiful Green Forest and Green Meadows. But something strange is going on! Sammy Jay is keeping everyone awake at night by calling “Thief, thief!” but he swears that he was asleep. And Sticky-toes the Tree Toad hears his own voice coming from another tree, yet he hasn’t said anything. Unc’ Billy thinks that he knows what’s going on, but how can all the little people in the meadow and the forest get to the bottom of the mystery?
Several years ago, I was in the gift shop at some state park and picked up a copy of The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver by author and conservationist Thornton W. Burgess (1874-1965), and I really enjoyed it. In doing some research, I found that Burgess had written a whole series of books for young people, beginning with his first one, Old Mother West Wind, published in 1910. Over the next fifty years, he completed around 170 of them, featuring such amusing characters as Jimmy Skunk, Little Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog, Billy Mink, Jerry Muskrat, Spotty the Turtle, Johnny Woodchuck, and others. As a youth in Sandwich, MA, Burgess worked for a man who lived on a local wildlife habitat of woodland and wetland, and this became the setting for his stories in which he referred to such features as Smiling Pool and the Old Briar Patch.
Therefore, when I saw a copy of The Adventures of Mr. Mocker at a used book sale, I picked it up. Burgess’s style is very similar to Joel Chandler Harris’s “Uncle Remus” stories but his tales are more appropriate for a younger set, along the lines of Beatrix Potter yet with more substance. Preschool kids and young readers will delight in hearing or reading about the exploits of Mr. Mocker and his friends, including Blacky the Crow, Peter Rabbit, Bobby Coon, and others. They will also enjoy looking at the drawings by illustrator Harrison Cady. In addition, this classic story about mischief and forgiveness not only presents all kinds of facts about animals but also teaches lessons about everyday living that all children need to learn as well. Playing tricks on one’s friends is NOT the way to keep them, and can actually cause people a lot of trouble.