Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life Story

Life Story
Virginia Lee Burton ~ Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1962


It's been a few years since my friend told me about this book, and I'm just now getting around to giving it to the boy for Valentine's Day. The timing was perfect however, because any sooner and it would've been lost on him. That said, this might very well be one of the most fascinating books EVER written by a classic children's book author. If you haven't read it before, all you The Little House and Mike Mulligan fans are gonna die when you get a load. In full disclosure, though the book was penned in the sixties, this is an updated edition. And seeing as the whole point is the literal "life story", getting the facts straight is pretty important. Though all you creationists out there be warned, this interpretation is definitely not for you.

Told as if a stage play, here we see the story of life acted out, beginning with the birth of the sun...Eons and eons ago our Sun was born, one of millions and billions of stars that make up our galaxy, called the Milky Way. Our galaxy is one of the millions and billions and trillions of galaxies whirling around in space, which make up the Universe. Our Sun is not the biggest star, nor is it the smallest, but to us it is the most important star of all--for without the light and warmth from our Sun, no Life could live on Earth.

From here we learn about all our neighboring planets and how different rotations form the days, weeks, months and years. We watch the earth change from a fiery ball of matter into a place where microorganisms begin to form. Enter trilobites, cephalopods... then vertebrates appear. Moving from the Paleozoic Era of ancient life to the Mesozoic with its Triassic and Jurassic to the Cenozoic of wholly mammoths and humans. Amazingly thorough for a picture book, seriously, your child will learn way more than you yourself probably know. Once humans arrive, it quickly turns from cave men drawing on the walls to the fall of old worlds and into a New World-centric tale... through a few more pages it zeros in on Virginia herself, focusing on her farm and its seasons... painting their beauty... then days... and minutes... in the end, the stage is handed over to the reader in a most poetic and wonderful way, connecting all life and history down to this very moment.

And now it is your Life Story and it is you who plays the leading role. The stage is set, the time is now, and the place wherever you are. Each passing second is a new link in the endless chain of Time. The drama of Life is a continuous story--ever new and ever changing, and ever wondrous to behold.

Seriously, this book will blow your child's mind. I don't think I even began to grasp these sorts of concepts until high school when I figured them out on my own. My son is so intrigued with the evolution of life, and it's fun to watch the glimmer of recognition in his eyes as his heart begins to open up to the story. Ms. Burton was an astounding lady. The fact that she, of all people, wrote this book (right down to the perfect natural history museum end pages), surprises me not.

Also by:
Calicio the Wonder Horse or The Saga of Stewy Stinker
The Little House

11 comments:

Margaret Perry said...

I just discovered this. Burton is of course a favorite--but this book is absolutely stunning. Thanks for posting!

Angelica said...

I was just at the Museum of Natural History yesterday! Wish I would have had this as companion. Excellent post!

Rion said...

My 2 year old knows the word "trilobite" because of this book. We love reading it and get new stuff out of it every time we do... so much information!

And Pluto is still a planet in it. So, you know, extra nostalgia.

Playing by the book said...

This sounds brilliant - adding it to my wishlist straight away! Thanks for writing about it.

Lisa Davis said...

What a discovery! Thanks for sharing. I am visiting your site for the first time and it is as wonderful as I was told it was. Have you ever looked at the books of Vera B. Williams? Amazing...your son might enjoy 3 Days on the River in a Red Canoe. Then, you may have to follow that with a canoe trip!

Chandra said...

Um...okay...wow! This book looks amazing!!

Janna said...

Have you seen the PBS special on Burton? I rented it from Netflix a little while ago and it was really interesting.

Swati said...

Since envy is such a fruitless emotion, let me feel gratitude for getting to know this book :)

Read Aloud Dad said...

Fabulous, inspiring, jaw-dropping!

Read Aloud Dad

PS I noticed that this book will be reviewed tomorrow (08/30/2011) on the Children's Book Almanac and then, impatient to read about it, I searched around the net for it. Of course, I found your great review on Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves!

PS2 It is on our 'to buy' list, after reading your review!

B. Streetman said...

Thanks RAD! I never realized that was your handle until now. Ha!

Becca said...

Love this book too. I have jealously coveted my childhood copy and recently ran across another that I am selling on Etsy right now. very, very cool.

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