Life Story

So this is the second post in a row inspired by the daily prompt on WordPress.  Today’s question is:  What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

When I was in third grade I found the book ‘Life Story’ by Virginia Lee Burton at my school library.  In Burton’s distinctive artwork and prose it follows a plot of land from the formation of the Earth through the present day. It’s told by a narrator, as if it were a stage play, similar to ‘Our Town’.

We could take out books for a week at a time, but we could also renew them the following week.  I took the book out often and would be disappointed if someone else wanted it.   By the end of the school year the librarian finally just gave me the book.

I still have it, here it is below.  It’s a first edition, published in 1962, but it’s in pretty rough shape, held together by a lot of tape.  It’s the only book from that long ago that I still have.


I’m sure that at first I loved the book for it’s sections on dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, like any other 8 year old boy.


But as the book moves forward in time, what I eventually found more interesting was the progression of life on the small farm that appeared on that plot of land.  Burton slows down the passage of time once we get to the farm, from thousands of years on each page, to just a few, to just the passing of seasons.  From dinosaurs, we move to early mammals, then humans, and then to the farm where we see the planting of the crops in the Spring, and the harvest in the fall.


When my son was born, I bought a new copy.  I knew he wouldn’t be able to read it for years, but it’s already been close to 4 years since I bought it, which like the book, have passed so quickly.

Here is his copy.


My one complaint is that the new edition has been updated with “new scientific information”.  Which to me is completely insane.  The updates stick out like a sore thumb inserted in Burton’s prose.   It’s like updating Joyce Kilmer’s poem ‘Trees’ with new research on trees.

When I was a kid, I loved those dinosaur pictures.  I’m sure this is one of the books that started me on a love of reading and a love of Science and History.  I wanted to be a Scientist when I was a kid.  Though I didn’t end up becoming a Scientist,  I did marry one!

Then as I grew a little older I loved the story of the farm, and following the story of the family on the farm, the farm house, and the yearly harvest.  Since then,  as I’ve gotten older, I appreciated the perspective on the passage of time, and how quick and short life is.  Especially appreciated once we had a baby, and now, quicker than we thought possible he will soon be 4 years old.

I’ll probably always have that old copy of the book.

The best part is the last few lines:

‘Now I leave you and turn the story over to you.

Look out your window and in a few seconds you will see the sunrise.

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.


Life Story — 5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Blue Moon | paul scribbles

  2. I have to find this book. Thanks for sharing this. I got a good laugh from your Joyce Kilmer reference!

    • Her writing, at least in this book, has a certain rhythm to it, and the additions don’t really fit in well. Also, in the new edition, certain words were changed such as anywhere the word “mankind” would appear in the old edition the new one now has the word “humans”. At least the changes keep it in print I suppose.