Pushmi-Pullyu Hen

When I was quite young I was allowed to bicycle by myself to the town’s one room library. Despite the small size, some librarian must have been a woman after my own heart because the children’s area was stocked with books that I totally related to. It was a library with old wood, big high windows and dust motes dancing in murky light. There I devoured all of the Misty books, the Black Stallion series, The Wizard of Oz (did you know that there are volumes of these?) and Dr. Doolittle. I already understood about talking to animals, and Dr. Doolittle was like spending time with a close friend.

I’ve been taking hundreds of photos of the chicks. Scanning through my downloads I saw this:


It’s a Pushmi-Pullyu Hen!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s Hugh Lofting’s illustration of his creature:

Pushmi-Pullyu, Story of Doctor Dolittle

Now I have an itch to go back and read the original book. But, I’m a bit nervous about doing so. It was so perfect when I was a child. Have you read Doolittle lately? Should I revisit the book or keep my memory as is?


  1. Your push-me-pull-you photo is much less common than the standard headless chicken photo (when you catch them preening feathers under their wings). Very nice.
    Regarding books, there’s Pippy Longstocking too.

  2. OMG!!! I remember that book!!! I don’t remember the story well, but the Pushmi-Pullyu was an important part of my childhood memories. I don’t know what ever happened to my copy of that book :-(

  3. Yes, if you have the time, go back and read the book again. We all need to step out of our adult world from time to time and put aside our cares and realities. A bit of fantasy is like a refreshing stream flowing through our souls washing away all the sludge that stops up the drains of our minds and emotions.

  4. I’d say go for it. For a period in my 30’s and 40’s I spent most summers, haunting the childrens’ book section of the library, reading new books and revisiting old favorites. Most I reread held up surprisingly well, and some were much better than I remembered, or maybe as an adult I just finally got things that had passed the child me right by. One such series was The Borrowers — wonderful minor characters right out of English culture, like you get in Agatha Christie mysteries. Plus many of those old favorites have had sequels since I read them (including the Borrowers!).

    Re Dr. Doolittle, I think, even if you don’t find the stories as wonderful, at least the illustrations will totally charm you — that’s my prediction. And thanks for reminding me of the Pushmi-Pullyu — a favorite of mine since I read Dr. Doolittle all those years ago.

    Winnie the Pooh is one series I didn’t read as a child, and when I tried to read it as an adult I just didn’t get it. Sigh.

  5. Oh, and I just took another look at that illustration. Isn’t it just the greatest? Look at the expressions of the dog, the pig and the duck. The monkey is clearly explaining everything. Don’t these animals remind you of certain — ahem — gentlemen — residing in your barn?! Personality plus. Hugh Lofting obviously was a wonderful observer, or whoever did the illustrations, of animals! Right up your alley, Terry ;)

  6. I just finished reading that book with my 7 year old daughter. It is part of our homeschool curriculum and a favorite of both of the children I have read it to. It is a delightful book!

  7. Love to revisit my favorite children’s books. I kept many of them and am so glad they are still with me. It is like Alice in Wonderland…..going down the rabbit hole of memories. Age is just a state of mind.

  8. For whatever reason, I never liked Dr. Doolittle, but absolutely adored Pippi Longstocking (still do)!! Guess you just never know who your hero/as will be, in retrospect. The Oz books, for sure—I read every one of them! AND The Borrowers. I also vaguely remember a very early series, with a lot of wild animal characters, called Old Mother West Wind—when I was just learning to read on my own.

    • Yes, Sue ~ I, too, still have and enjoy re-reading my copy of “Old Mother West Wind” and her children the Merry Little Breezes by Thornton W. Burgess. Hooray for Reddy Fox, Jimmy Skunk, Billy Mink and Sammy Jay and all the others!

      • I visited the Burgess house on Cape Cod last summer. My family didn’t understand why I was gushing so. I read every single book.

  9. Lol I thought it was conjoin twins.. at closer look I can see its two sepetate birds LOL I can be a fool sometimes!!!

  10. Yes, revisit your early library bookshelf. The more time goes by, the more early memories remain perfect. Do settle in with a copy of Dr. Doolittle on this cool, misty weekend. You won’t regret it. P.S. I am enjoying the energy and activity of the pullets in the Little Barn run.

  11. I have a Dutch translation with the original illustrations to read to my pupils. They enjoy it, especially the dialogues, for example between the lioness and her haughty husband, or the sharks who offer to eat the pirates. Only some parts about the black prince who wants to be white, are not acceptable anymore in our time. So I change the text while reading and the problem is solved. I like the first book best.

    • I never heard it read out loud. I’m sure it’s fun to do with your students. I also agree that the first book was the strongest. Same with the Oz books. But, as a child with a lot of time on her hands, it was worth reading all.

  12. When my husband read Doctor Dolittle to our kids, they stopped to talk about the various things that are problematic to our modern, inclusive views. I keep having to remind myself that the world view used to be different, when I read many classics.

  13. Ahhh, those magnificent childhood memories. Thank goodness for children’s books, which helped us get through our childhood. I’d suggest that you go back and re-read it. It will send you back to the time when you needed to escape, and help you understand yourself now even more than before.

  14. As a child I loved “The borrowers” “Pooh” “Alice in wonderland and through the looking glass” but as an adult my teenage boys gave me Roahl Dayhl books to read after they had read them (sorry don’t know how to spell his name) and I loved them too. Children’s books are great and probably never lose their shine, or perhaps a part of us never grows up!

  15. E.B. White (of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little fame) was an animal lover and had some backyard animals in Brooklin, Maine. I read somewhere they inspired him to write his children’s books. I loved those wonderful illustrations. They inspired me to want to be an artist. Our grade school classroom rat was named Templeton. Maybe Mr. Grumpy needs a Charlotte, the spider, and people would “flock” from all over to take him home thinking he was really special.

    • I recently read a biography of White, who knew his farm animals. He studied spiders for a year before writing about Charlotte. What’s important about his books is that his animals are true to who they are as animals. The characters in most children’s books are furry (or otherwise) humans. A zebra in an animated film has stripes but nothing zebra-ish. White believed that his animals should be true to their animal natures.

  16. Being somewhat housebound in Assisted Living, when my TV and WiFi went out the same weekend weeks ago for three long days–no Internet or email, I despaired. But then I found copies of my childhood favorites, A Little Princess and the Secret Garden that my mother had read to me more than half a century ago and reread them both. I loved them, maybe even more, and could hardly put them down. So reminded me, too, when I was sick or not, and my mother would read to me before bed even though by then I could read on my own. Remembering those comfortable times.

    • Oh gosh, Christina — The Secret Garden is probably my favorite book of all time! Also loved A Little Princess and the lesser-known Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Lost Prince, also by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Recently I read a short bio of her — wow, quite the risque life! But I think The Secret Garden has, unconsciously, formed the basis of my personal philosophy and gardening philosophy, from childhood. These books we read as children can have such a powerful effect on us — reason to make sure our kids read and read and read, and have some quality stuff in there. I know this isn’t a book blog or even, strictly, a garden blog, but chickens and goats are just the characters drawn by Terry to hold center stage, (oh, don’t forget pups and fish!), drawing us into the larger world that is her (your) garden.

      • Thank you for those words, KathyG. I put as much time and thought into each blogpost as I do into the writing that I do for my books. The characters that I write about that live in my backyard, and the gardens, and the frogs… are interesting on their own, but are all parables for bigger themes. The books that many of of remember with our hearts had a core of sweetness, love and sanity. I worry that too much of what is being published now veers to cynicism and despair without the heart underneath.

        • Terry, that is absolutely perfect: a core of sweetness, love and sanity. Speaking about ‘what is being published now veering to cynicism and despair without heart underneath’ that is certainly true of a lot of blogs, tweets, and general internet chatter. Like most of what seems bad, scary, overwhelming hopeless, evil, etc about life in general, the best any of us can do is nail down our own personal corner of the universe, whether it be a small garden, a flock of chickens, a family or small business, or a blog —- and hold it true to sweetness, love, sanity and heart. Your words are always right there, and that’s why so many of us check in each day, smile, and send heartfelt thanks to you and all the clan……

  17. My Mother instilled the love of reading in me by taking me to the library, as a child. We even had the Book Mobile that came to the corner store, during the summer months. I have fond memories, as well as the well-worn Dr. Seuss Books, that she ordered for me. I looked forward to those cardboard sleeved items when they came in the mail once a month! Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, and 3 more Dr. Seuss Books written by others, were Ten Apples up on Top, The King, the Mice, and the Men, and Are You My Mother?

      • We had a bookmobile that would stop by once a week, jeez, I wonder if they exist today! I always looked forward to the day it was time to return books and check out new books during summer vacation. KathyG, thanks for the nudge to the old memory here!

  18. I read “green eggs and ham” in my school library when I was very young. I have never seen it since but it has stayed in my memory. A cat in a hat!

  19. I grew up on the same books! I have not read Dr. Doolittle in recent years but maybe I will! I still have that series as well as all the oz books! I’ll let you know if I do re-read it.

    • Marguerite Henry was my absolute favorite as a kid! Loved Born to Trot, King of the Wind and The Medicine Hat Stallion. The illustrators she worked with were something special as well. If you can find An Album of Horses, Henry does a nice sketch of different breeds but the illustrations are what make the book special

      • Cindy, Marguerite Henry books were definitely a favorite. Wesley Dennis was her illustrator, I think. A perfect team. She did one dog book–Muley-Ears, Nobody’s Dog.

  20. E.B. White- definitely. I was especially fascinated with Stuart Little as a child. Not only did I obsess over the book, but would make canoes, paddles,table and chairs and a bed, etc. for him. Maybe it’s time to revisit this wonderful author with my nine year old this summer. Thanks for the nudge.

    • And don’t forget Anne of Green Gable–and the Little House on the Prairie series (same illustrator as Charlotte’s Web, Garth Williams). So many messages about life, the world, gardens, family. I am dependent on technology now with my iPad and cell phone which bring the outside world in, but I am truly glad I was a child in the fifties when all the books mentioned in this Blog (and more) were a big source of inspiration and entertainment. This book discussion does relate to a mutual shared love of animals and gardens.

  21. I loved the series My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and The Green Grass of Wyoming as a child. I re-reading as an adult and really enjoyed it. There was so much in it I missed as a child that went totally over my head. I say re-read it.

  22. Heh! I confess, I re-read books all the time. Just finished re-reading The Jungle Books…I find that most of the time, books improve with a re-reading!

    Found an interesting one at the library, “A Picoral Life Story of Misty” -talk about getting to know your subject! Henry actually bought the real-life Misty in order to be more familiar with the subject. I was astonished at how fact & fiction intertwined.

    (As for Pippi, I remember enjoying the stories, but I wonder if they simply aren’t translated well…)

  23. Uh-oh, that should have been “Pictoral” Is picoral something to do with fish? :-)