Though I grew up loving Albert Bigelow Paine’s “Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn,” it wasn’t until later in life that I learned of the existence of three volumes of Hollow Tree stories, a generous series featuring all the familiar characters from the Christmas tale—and many, many more.
As I became familiar with Paine's series, I was a little surprised to learn that Mr. Dog wasn’t always on such great terms with the Hollow Tree folks. If you only know Mr. Dog and friends through our book, you’re kind of in the same boat I was. Maybe you’ve wondered about that line “You see, Mr. Dog liked them all now…”. It certainly gives a clue that there’s a backstory, doesn’t it? Well, of course, Paine set it all up beautifully in the many stories that preceded “Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn” and they are well worth a read.
My hope is to someday republish a few more of them, each as an individual volume, to join the Christmas story in a beautiful slipcovered Hollow Tree Treasury (I dream big!). Until then, though, the magic of 21st century technology gives us an opportunity to share them with you another way…. Introducing: The Mr. Dog Podcast!
My son Henry, a renaissance man if ever there was, has created this show. Each week from now until Christmas, you can listen to a new episode of The Mr. Dog Podcast, as Henry reads aloud from Paine’s Hollow Tree and Deep Woods books. Along the way you’ll meet The Storyteller and The Little Lady, Mr. Turtle, Mr. Rabbit and many more, and you’ll get to know that backstory.... what's the history behind the cozy Christmas friendship of Mr. ‘Coon, Mr. ‘Possum, Mr. Crow, and Mr. Dog, anyhow?
Henry is a wonderful storyteller (wait til you hear his Mr. Crow voice!), and in each episode he gives helpful bits of historical context and definitions for unfamiliar Victorian terms. He provides sweet musical interludes and a cozy crackling fire ambience, too. I love imagining families gathered ‘round each week to catch the latest installment, and the anticipation building as he approaches the Christmas Eve episode.
Of course, Paine was a master storyteller and it seems he loved exploring the form—the Hollow Tree tales have layers upon layers of storytelling within them. I imagine him listening to our podcast, which adds a new storyteller and a new storytelling medium to the mix. I hope he’d be pleased to find his tales being shared this way, enjoyed by many more “little folks” (and their storytellers), over 100 years after he wrote them.
Hello and happy May, dear friends!
In honor of May Day, I wanted to share a lovely gift from a dear friend and fan of Mr. Dog. Artist Katie Daisy gave me this beautiful little book for my birthday earlier this year. I was charmed and surprised to learn of yet another book by Mr. Dog’s author, Albert Bigelow Paine: A Little Garden Calendar.
A Little Garden Calendar, by Albert Bigelow Paine, 1905
I promise, this is not another crazy April Fool’s joke. The incredibly prolific Paine published this gardening manual for children in 1905. In it, he expertly instructs young readers in the art of gardening and observation of the natural world. In his words, he
has tried to tell in simple language a few of the wonders of plant life, and to set down certain easy methods of observation, including planting, tending, and gathering the harvests, from month to month, throughout the year. Along with this it has been [my] aim to call attention to the more curious characteristics of certain plants—the really human instincts and habits of some, the family relations of others, the dependence of many upon mankind, animals, and insects, and the struggle for existence of all.
But to make this book even more remarkable, Paine presents this instruction in the form of a sweet fictional story that follows two young children, Davy and Prue, as they learn throughout the year with the help of their friend, “The Chief Gardener.” Again, in Paine’s words:
Simple botany plays a part in the little narrative, which forms a continuous story from chapter to chapter, interwoven with a number of briefer stories—traditions, fairy tales, and the like, all relating to plant life and origin. These are presented by way of entertainment—to illuminate fact with fancy—to follow, as it were, the path of knowledge through the garden of imagination.
The more I learn about old Albert, the more I love him. This seemed a lovely thing to share with you all on this first day of May. I hope you enjoy the photos below. You can read the book online, or even download a free copy for your iPad or Kindle from Gutenberg.org.
Wishing you a brilliant May!
Creative Director, That's So Enterprises
Greetings, dear Reader.
If you know me and my friends at the Hollow Tree, you know we enjoy a good prank now and then. Well, it appears my April 1 hoax did indeed fool quite a few folks and I hope you enjoyed it in the spirit of good April Fools’ fun!
Our publisher, Betsy, has an update and a real Albert Bigelow Paine story to share with you below. And I promise no more shenanigans... Well, at least not for a while!
Your foolish friend,
Although it’s simply not true that we discovered an unpublished Albert Bigelow Paine Hollow Tree story, we have been enjoying more of the tales in his three-volume series, all of which are available as free ebooks at Project Gutenberg. With Easter coming this weekend, I thought it would be fun to share “Mr. Rabbit Explains: An Easter Story” from The Hollow Tree and Deep Woods Book, in which Mr. Rabbit tells his friends just how the Easter “bunny” myth got started.
"THEY CAME TO A LOG UNDER A BIG TREE AND SAT DOWN FOR A SMOKE AND TALK" (image courtesy of Project Gutenberg)
I love the illustrations by J.M. Conde, who did the art for all three original volumes.
IT WAS A NICE BLUE EGG WHEN SHE GOT THROUGH WITH IT (image courtesy of Project Gutenberg)
For those of you planning dye eggs and enjoy a hunt this weekend, this tale could be a fun addition to the festivities. You can read and download the full story from Project Gutenberg here.
A FEW LESSONS IN RUNNING AND HIDING (image courtesy of Project Gutenberg)
In other news, I’m really happy to be able to confirm (no joke!) that Mr. Dog’s Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn will soon be on press again. We know that many of you missed out last year, and many of you are interested in more copies for gifts this year, so we’re going to open up a pre-order page on this site just as soon as we get all our ducks in a row. I expect everything should be ready by the end of April. If you’re not on Mr. Dog’s newsletter list yet, please do sign up. Subscribers will be the very first to know when the books are available again.