Book of April: How to tell the Birds from the Flowers

It’s April Fools’ Day and I can’t think of a more appropriate book to share as Mother Nature showers snow upon us than How to tell the Birds from the Flowers and other wood-cuts by Robert Williams Wood.

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A friend found this delightful little ditty at an independent book store in Brattleboro, Vermont, several months ago and couldn’t resist purchasing it for me. Thank you, A.J. 

Can you see from the cover what Wood had in mind? 

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And his language–Flornithology? Oh my. Artistic license met poetic license. 

The first edition was published in 1917–in Kent, England. According to a little research, Mr. Wood was born in England, but went on to become a physicist at Johns Hopkins. And they say (whoever they are) that he had no sense of humor.

Read on: 

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After this introduction, it gets even better (in my humble opinion). 

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Whimsical rhymes and . . .

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clever sketches;

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Similarities and . . .

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All found in the natural world. 

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Doesn’t this just make you smile? The man lacked a sense of humor? Hardly.

And we know the Mother Nature also has a sense of humor. This isn’t the first time it has snowed on April first.

At the back of the book is a list of other facsimile reissues from Pryor Publications. Here are a few titles worth considering: Punishments in the Olden Times, Manners for Women, Manners for Men, A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Class and Why Not Eat Insects.

And on the back cover: “This updated edition originally published in 1917 now includes how to tell ‘The Eel from the Elephant,’ ‘The P-Cock from the Q-Cumber’ and ‘The Elk from the Whelk’ to name but a few. This book will be invaluable to those who are short sighted or just plain confused, the rest of you may even find it amusing.”

I think I fall into the latter group and that’s what A.J. had in mind (right?) when she gifted it to me because I find it quite amusing. 

Happy April Fools’ Day. 

How to tell the Birds from the Flowers and other wood-cuts (is he referring to himself?), versus and illustrations by Robert Williams Wood, 1917.

8 thoughts on “Book of April: How to tell the Birds from the Flowers

  1. Leigh, You’ve done it again! Inspired me at the start of my day. I have owned and delighted in this book for many years. I used it to engage my kids when they were young. It was a good, humorous window into my world of botany and all things natural. It always seemed to be perfectly at the level of what a kid finds funny. Thanks, Susan

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  2. Ah, Susan. Thanks for reading this post and commenting. I always love to hear from you. Why am I not surprised that this book is on your shelf as well? Yes, it would make a perfect intro for kids and I’ll use it this summer with the nature program we do for the Lovell Rec Department.


  3. I know Foxie–don’t you wish you could see the world as he did? Then again, maybe we do. How much of the white stuff in Hallowell? We’ve got at least a foot of new on top of 18 or so inches of old snow. And more on the way for Tuesday. So much for a vernal pool exploration for the MMNP class on Saturday.


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