Birds of Spring

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Spring is finally in the air along with some returning feathered friends. In honour of our avian associates I thought I’d share part of a chapbook on birds. While there are plenty of chapbooks in the collection on birds, I picked Juvenile History of Birds because of a reference to Canada in the first entry. It describes the turkey’s homeland of Canada as “covered with snow above three parts of the year.” I’m assuming that’s three parts out of four, which it certainly feels like sometimes.

This also gives me an opportunity to mention another part of McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections – the amazing Blacker-Wood Collection of Zoology and Ornithology. For example, it houses a book with pictures of birds and people made entirely of feathers from 1618! You can see the digitized version here. There are also several collections on different aspects of Canadiana such as Canadian history, literature, architecture, prints, and even the Olympics.

Hearts, stars, and horseshoes, clovers and blue moons…

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Since it’s Saint Patrick’s Day I thought I’d share a tangentially related chapbook on pots of gold and rainbows, though you can forget about any red balloons. The moral of The Boy and the Rainbow, in a typical Victorian fashion, is to ignore such childish nonsense because regular work will get you more gold than chasing rainbows.

For a more serious look at Irish culture and literature, there are a number of chapbooks published in or about Ireland which are a part of the digitization project. You can find some of the titles here.

A Little Midterm Moral Support


Charley is having a rotten day, behind in his work, it’s a subject he hates, it’s all due tomorrow, and is in a foul mood about the situation. We’ve all been there. Here’s a motivational speech from Every-day Heroism about a mother trying to inspire her son to finish his schoolwork through the example of historical conquerors:

“ I cannot do them ; it is no used trying to do anything on such days.”

There was a pause of a few moments, and then his mother said :

“ Charley, you like to read the histories of great soldiers and heroes of old times, such as Alexander, and Caesar, and Napoleon?”

“ Yes, mother, very much.”

“ Well, tell me, when do you like Alexander best — feasting at Babylon or in action, commanding his army, attacking the enemy, and gaining victories ?”

“ I like him best in action, mother, of course.”

“ True, we like bravery better than cowardice. When do you like best to read of Napoleon — imprisoned at St. Helena, or at the beginning of his course with difficulties around him, but rising above them all by his strength of will ?”

“ Oh, I like him best in the beginning, mother,” said Charley, with kindled enthusiasm.

“ But,” said Mrs. Morris, “ suppose he could have marched by a smooth road, straight from France to Italy.”

“ Why, he would not have been a hero at all, if he had not something to conquer.”

“And the will to conquer it,” added Mrs. Morris with a smile. ” That is just what I want you to notice. We cannot imitate, if we would, the precise actions of these great conquerors; but we can copy their energy and strength of purpose, and our daily life furnishes opportunities to cultivate these qualities.”

“ I do not see how, mother.”

“ The life of a little school-boy presents some difficulties — does it not, Charley ?”

“ Yes, mother,” he replied, glancing ruefully at his Arithmetic.

Then there is something to conquer, and in the conquest you can grow strong and brave. Like Napoleon you can never be a hero, unless you have some obstacles to overcome.