IF YOU SPENT A DAY WITH THOREAU AT WALDEN POND
Written by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor
Oct. 2012. Tr $17.99.
From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
In 1845, at age 28, Thoreau built a tiny cabin in the woods beside Walden Pond outside the town of Concord, Massachusetts. He lived there for two years, noting in a journal his observations of the animals, plants, and seasonal changes. His book, Walden, condenses his experience into one year spent communing with nature. Here, Burleigh has simplified Thoreau’s life at Walden Pond to a short description of one day’s activities as heard through the voice of a narrator and seen through the eyes of a modern young boy dressed in blue jeans, T-shirt, and running shoes. “Henry has just what he needs,” says the narrator, as the child gazes into the sparsely furnished cabin. As Henry and his young friend drink cold pond water, watch darting fish from a rowboat, weed Henry’s bean patch, and listen to bird calls on a walk in the woods, Thoreau uses “teachable moments” to enrich each experience, as he did with the students in his school. Two pages of brief facts about his life and a page of his thoughts on simple living are appended. Minor’s impressionist/realistic gouache paintings are filled with the rich blues of sky and water, textured forest greens, and warm browns of cabin, earth, and tree trunks. In D. B. Johnson’s Henry Builds a Cabin (Houghton, 2002) a charming fictionalized story for the same age group featuring bear charactersThoreau visualizes his tiny cabin as a spacious home. Burleigh’s more serious, though somewhat fictionalized, presentation (due to the boy’s presence) offers a glimpse of Thoreau’s philosophy that young children can understand.Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
From KIRKUS REVIEWS
What would it be like to spend a day with Henry David Thoreau, observing and appreciating nature?
Readers are immediately thrust into the world of Thoreau through the experiences of a modern boy who enjoys a day with the great writer from sunrise to dusk. Evocative prose replete with memorable images gives readers a child’s-eye view of Thoreau’s days, capturing the importance and excitement of being at one with nature. Images of a modern boy in basic jeans, T-shirt and sneakers and Thoreau in simple 19th-century garb wandering through the woods, water and meadows surrounding Walden Pond provide a shimmering tableau of the natural world. While the inclusion of both modern and older dress is initially somewhat jarring, the illustrations are closely interwoven with the text, providing keen visuals that are sure to draw in young naturalists. Initial information may have been helpful in providing children with context, but the end pages include biographical information as well as a selection of both Thoreau quotes and Burleigh’s child-friendly interpretations of them. The audience skews a bit on the younger side because of overall tone, but older children will find much to interest them in the subject matter and final pages as well.
A fine introduction to the value of Thoreau and the natural world. (Picture book. 4-9)
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