MG Book Excerpt: Burgher and the Woebegone

I had the pleasure of meeting author Kim Chabel at a workshop she hosted on how to do Book Trailers. and  Not only is Kim a wealth of information regarding marketing children’s books with book trailers, she is a fiber artist as well.  Her storytelling AND one of her crafts will be featured in this and Friday’s post.  Here is the enchanting and whimsical excerpt from Kim’s latest book: BURGHER AND THE WOEBEGONE: A-Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Story.

Burgher and the Woebegone                                                  kim-biopic1-web

By Kim Chatel

Chapter 1: Wherein Burgher finds a toenail.

Spring came to Oxtail Orchard with ash-gray skies and dingy horizons. The stunted apple trees shook on the little hillock like a clutch of old hens left out in the cold.

What’s that? Spring isn’t supposed to be about cold chickens? It’s supposed to be about hopeful flashes of green and blossom scented breezes? You’re right, of course, but Oxtail Orchard had been gray and dismal for too many springs. No one remembered it any other way.

You can thank Burgher for that. He drove the Apple Tree Man away.

Burgher was a gnome, which is just another way of saying an ugly elf. He was fat, but still managed to have knobby knees and elbows. He wore the same clothes everyday, until they were tattered, greasy rags. His beard was as gray as his heart and tangled with bits of twigs and last night’s dinner.

He didn’t care that the scurrying squirrels pined for fresh fruit or the birds, so newly arrived from the south, were confused to find the orchard bare and gray. Burgher liked gray. He worked in his garden bed, plucking the few green shoots that dared to poke through the mud. Only fungus and slugs were allowed in his garden. Slugs were dependable and no one ever made a fuss over fungus.

Burgher had been growing gray things for so long; the grayness had crept inside him. But, dear reader, Burgher was about to learn that color, like hope cannot be kept from this world forever.

Just as he was enjoying his crop of slugs and moss, his trowel turned over a green toenail. Not green like his own moldy hobnobs, but green like eager spring leaves.

Burger pulled his beard. He stomped his foot.

Only one person had toenails like these.

The Apple Tree Man was back.

“. . . good for nothing . . . ruin everything . . .” Burgher mumbled. He slipped the toenail in his pocket and looked up at his apple tree home. A small rain cloud hung over the branches like a pork-pie hat.

It was true! Tiny green buds sparkled on the branches. He stared at the little nubs for a full minute, unbelieving. Buds meant blossoms, leaves, apples and all the infuriating creatures that came with them.

Burgher’s hearing wasn’t so good, and the constant thunder rumbling from the storm cloud didn’t help, but he thought he could just make out the chirping of birds.

“. . . wretched tree.” He kicked at a root. “Blasted buds. . .”

Burgher did not believe in finishing sentences. Finished sentences were whole thoughts, promises that couldn’t be taken back.

“. . . bees . . . too many bees. And butterflies. . .”

Burgher hated butterflies.

He sat heavily on a damp mushroom and wondered how he would rid the orchard of the Apple Tree Man once again. Jonny Gold (as the Apple Tree Man was known) was a legend, even to the legends. Flowers sprang up where he walked. Baby critters followed him with big, soppy smiles. The apple trees bowed in the wind when he passed.

Burgher cared less than a fig for the mysterious Apple Tree Man. When he saw the young field mice and bunny kits at Jonny’s knee, listening to tales of bumblebee heroes, Burger cringed. When he heard Jonny’s flute lilting notes into the moonlight, he gritted his teeth.

You see, reader, Burgher suffered from the most dreadfully incurable disease. He had a broken heart, and he blamed his misery on Jonny Gold.

Chapter 2c: Wherein Burgher meets a dear friend.

Before the grayness, Burgher loved to walk through the orchard in the evening. He liked to listen to the birds fluffing their nests for the night, and the crickets tune their bows to start the evening symphony.

He was still a young gnome then. His beard barely reached his knees. His heart was full of love for his home and his neighbors.

“Good evening, Burgher,” said Mrs. Raccoon.

“Evenin’” said Burgher tipping his hat. “How are the children?” Mrs. Raccoon turned and counted each of her babies by tapping them on the head.

“Six. They’re all here. It’s a good night.”

“It certainly is,” said Burgher. The raccoons slipped off like shadows to find their supper and Burgher walked deeper into the orchard.

He wasn’t paying attention to his feet. They knew every dip in the path, every knotty root poking out of the earth. They would lead him where he wanted to go–the Queen tree.

She was lovely in the moonlight. Her leaves glimmered like gold. Burgher laid a hand on her warm trunk. He could feel the sap coursing through her. She was so alive!

Just then, a little inchworm hung down in front of his nose from a silver string. Her skinny, green body swung on her filament like bait for a lonely gnome. Burgher walked right into her and she landed on his nose.

“Hey, little inchworm,” he said. The worm wiggled down to his cheek.

He took the inchworm home and put her in a basket of sweet grass. He named her Katy. Everyday he brought her fresh, green leaves to eat, and listened with fascination to the immeasurably small clicking noises she made as she devoured leaf after leaf. To Burgher it was magical music.

Over the Spring, Katy grew fat. She and Burgher explored the whole orchard together. They picnicked under the Queen tree, basking in its golden glow. They hopped the creek, and ran down grassy hills just for fun.

They were inseparable.

Then one bright Spring morning, when Burgher brought Katy her breakfast, she was gone! The basket was empty except for a long, hard egg-like thing, hanging from Katy’s favorite branch.

Burgher grabbed the basket and ran to see Jonny Gold. In those days, the Apple Tree Man was a friend to Burgher, not a foe.

Jonny Gold lazed under a tree, playing his flute. The music brought bees and other beneficial insects from miles around to fertilize the apple blossoms and eat the nasty insects that feasted on the trees.

“Help me!” cried Burger. Jonny Gold’s music faded as the frantic little gnome shoved the basket under his nose.

“Katy’s gone!” said Burgher.

Jonny Gold looked in the basket and laughed.                                                                        Burgher-ad

“Katy’s not gone, ol’ boy,” he said. Burgher hated to be called ol’ boy, but he was too upset to notice.

“Katy has made herself into a chrysalis. In a week or so, she’ll come out as a beautiful butterfly.”

“A butterfly?” said Burgher. He had lived all his life in the orchard. He had seen butterflies fly and worms inch, but had never imagined they were both the same creature.

A butterfly! How wonderful! When Katy comes out of her chrysalis, what adventures we’ll have!

“What do I do with her?” asked Burgher. “How do I take care of her until she’s ready to… you know, change?”

“She’s changing now, ol’ boy. You don’t have to do anything, but wait.”

Burgher took Katy and her basket home.

Waiting proved harder than he thought. Everyday he peered anxiously into the basket. Everyday, Katy slept on in her chrysalis.

A week later, the chrysalis moved. Burgher took her to the Queen Apple Tree. He wanted Butterfly-Katy’s first view of the orchard to be that beautiful, golden tree. The day was perfect, warm but not hot. No breeze would ruffle Katy’s newborn wings.

Burger waited and watched. His heart was as full as a harvest moon.

Soon a little black head popped out of the chrysalis. One leg then another. Burgher whispered encouraging words to his friend.

“You can do it, Katy. That a girl! Come on, Katy!”

When she finally emerged, with damp, crumpled wings, he scooped her up on his finger and said, “Welcome to the orchard, Butterfly-Katy.”

She was beautiful! Her wings were the delicate blue of a robin’s egg. She fanned herself, drying the new wings in the sun. Soon she lifted off, hovered in the air for a moment, and then floated into the branches of the Queen tree.

Just like an angel. Burgher nearly burst with pride.

Katy flew higher and Burgher lost her in the glare of the sun. He blinked and she was gone. Burgher smiled. Katy loved to play hide-and-seek. He called to her and slowly circled the tree.

Katy was nowhere. Burgher’s stomach lurched.

“Katy!” he called. “Katy!”

He climbed the Queen tree. His clumsy feet broke branches and knocked off new apples. Frantic now, he searched the leaves, until his head poked up over the top of the tree.

And that was when Burgher heard the music, faint at first, but growing louder. It was lilting and melodic, like a summer’s day.

Jonny Gold’s flute!

Burgher stumbled down the trunk. He scraped his face on a sharp branch. The tree bark chaffed his hands. He didn’t care. He had to find Katy.

“You!” he cried, pointing a finger at Jonny Gold. “You did this! You called Katy away and now she is lost.”

That last word sprang from his mouth in a sob.

“Don’t be ridiculous, ol’ boy.”

“Don’t call me ol’ boy!” shouted Burgher.

“Hey, hey, calm down. I meant no offense. And I didn’t call Katy. She’s a butterfly. That’s what they do. They flutter by and they just keep on fluttering. What did you expect? That you could keep her in a cage?”

“Yes!” said Burgher. “I mean, no.” He didn’t know what he meant. All he knew was that his best friend was gone and nothing would ever be the same. Burgher’s heart cracked in two that night and the joy leaked out like the yolk of an egg. It was the beginning of the end for Oxtail Orchard.

Be sure to check out Kim’s Caterpillar Craft on Friday.



1 thought on “MG Book Excerpt: Burgher and the Woebegone

  1. What a lovely review of this delightful new book! It’s been my pleasure to collaborate with Sam on three books to this point, and it has always been such a pleasure. One of the most talented illustrators I know, her writing skills are superb, too. Thanks for showcasing her, and it was a pleasure to visit your blog.

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