Children's Classic: Brighty of the Grand Canyon
Title: Brighty of the Grand Canyon
Author: Marguerite Henry
Publication Info: Rand, McNally & Co., 1953. 224 pages.
Source: My bookshelves--I've owned this since childhood
Long ago, a lone little burro roamed the high cliffs of the Grand Canyon and touched the hearts of all who knew him: a grizzled old miner, a big-game hunter, even President Teddy Roosevelt. Named Brighty by the prospector who befriended him, he remained a free spirit at heart. But when a ruthless claim-jumper murdered the prospector, loyal Brighty risked everything to bring the killer to justice.
Brighty's adventures have delighted generations of readers, and he has become the symbol of a joyous way of life. Some people say that you can even see his spirit roving the canyon on moonlit nights-forever wild, forever free.
I read all of Marguerite Henry's books as a child, and loved them. This one always was a bit hard for me, because there's some scary stuff in it, but I still loved it. Re-reading it as an adult turned out to be more problematic.
First off, let's ditch that blurb. Henry's anthropomorphism is bad enough, but the blurb-writer really went over the top. The story waffles between making it clear that Brighty (Bright Angel, for Bright Angel Creek where he based himself) is a more or less wild animal, and thinking that he's human.
More problematic for me was the whole issue of the feral burros (I have the same problem when I look now at her book, Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West, which I also have on my shelf). While Marguerite Henry was whole-heartedly on the side of the equines, I'm more on the side of the ecosystem, and am all too aware of the problems the feral animals cause in the fragile desert environment.
Demonizing the mountain lions doesn't go down so well with me, either, and I have to feel a bit ambivalent about the well-loved Uncle Jim the lion-hunter. Obviously in 1953 it was still considered a good thing to remove the predators from an ecosystem. Some of us (sadly, not all) know better now.
It was a nice nostalgic read, and relevant to my trip last year down the river through the Canyon. But... I don't think I can recommend this for our kids today.