I previously introduced a project to re-print a selection of children’s bedtime stories included in Mary Graham Bonner’s 1923 collection, 365 Bedtime Stories, along with a short biography of Bonner. Instead of covering all 365 stories, I will focus on the few that come with paintings by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis, two prolific artists of their day. The first of the stories to come with an illustration was the January 17 bedtime story, The Tame Canary Bird (a fitting way to start this project in light of the fact that back in 2021 we published a long series on birds from a children’s bird magazine). Below, after a brief introduction, I will re-print the The Tame Canary Bird in its entirety with its original illustration, and I will conclude with brief thoughts on the little story. You can the HTML version of the book on Project Gutenberg here.

New Leaf Introduction

Many of the stories in the 365 Bedtime Stories collection entail a father telling his daughter a story wherein the father’s recounting of the story is part of the story itself. The Tame Canary Bird follows that template. Here, a father tells his daughter, Evelyn, about her friend Elizabeth’s pet canary. The structure is a unusual in that Evelyn’s father had heard the tale from Elizabeth. This is the third story in the collection to specifically name Evelyn – with the first being Brownie’s Toothache for January 5 and the second The Brave Little Sister for January 10.

REPRINT of Bedtime Story for January 17: The Tame Canary Bird

Note: I retained the quotation mark styling of the original.

Daddy had heard that afternoon the story of a very tame canary bird. The little girl who owned the bird, and who was a friend of Jack and Evelyn, had told daddy about her little pet. So when daddy got home in the evening he was ready at once to tell the story of the little bird.

“I am going to tell you about the little bird Elizabeth has. Her daddy gave him to her several weeks ago, and he is just as tame as tame can be,” said daddy. “She has named him Bubsie, and he knows his name too, for whenever she calls ‘Bubsie!’ he replies with a little ‘Peep, peep!’

“Every morning, bright and early, he wakes up and begins to sing the most beautiful songs. He sings so steadily that Elizabeth says it is a surprise to her that he doesn’t burst his little throat.

“After Elizabeth gets up she always gives him a little piece of apple before she begins her breakfast. She puts it on her finger between two wires of the cage, and he hops right over on his little bar and takes it from her finger.

Illustration by Elizabeth Curtis of a little girl named Elizabeth standing over a table looking at her pet canary in a very pretty room.
Original painting by Elizabeth Curtis. Here you see Elizabeth (of the story) peering at her pet canary.

“The next thing is his bath, which he takes soon after breakfast. He loves that. He spatters the water about and has just the best time in the world. He acts as if it were the most wonderful game. After his bath he has a treat of delicious lettuce to eat, and then he sits in the sun and smoothes down his feathers.

“In his cage there is a swing, and he swings on it and hops from one perch to the other. In fact, he has a fine romp. He usually does this right after his bath, for then he feels so energetic.

“In the afternoon Elizabeth lets him out of his cage. Of course she sees first that there are no windows up or doors ajar before she opens the door of the cage. When the cage door is open Bubsie flies out and makes a tour of the room. How he does enjoy flying around and perching back of the different pictures and on the window-sill. The thing he likes more than anything else is to play with Elizabeth. He perches on her shoulder and walks around on her hand. And he loves to tease her too, for if there are any flowers in the room he will fly over to them, peck at them and begin munching at them. Then he won’t let Elizabeth catch him. He thinks this a huge joke, and he always flies to some high spot in the room and begins to sing which is his favorite trick of all.”

New Leaf Conclusion

The first 17 stories in 365 Bedtime Stories present a mix of ideas. Broadly speaking, most of the stories either have a simple moral or are charming accounts of daily life. The story of Elizabeth’s pet canary falls squarely in the latter classification. Here, Evelyn’s father was charmed by Elizabeth’s account of her pet canary, and he knew that his daughter would very much like to hear about it. The story includes notes about how Elizabeth takes good care of her canary – feeding it carefully and taking care that there are no hazards when she lets it out of the cage – but the focus of the story is very much the father’s reciting pleasant anecdotes.

Endearing pets are a trend in the early bedtime stories. Other stories star Natalie’s charismatic pink cockatoo for January 6 and Niles, a energetic, fashionable, and slightly kleptomaniac pet monkey owned by an unnamed old lady, for January 7.