Author: Robert Burleigh
Paintings by Wendell Minor
Published by Henry Holt and Company LLC, 2012
Ages: 5 – 8
Themes: Henry David Thoreau, naturalist, Walden Pond, MA
If you spent a day with Henry David Thoreau, you would need to get there early because Henry wakes with the sun.
If you spent a day with Henry David Thoreau, you would knock on the door of Henry’s tiny house on the shore of Walden Pond. Hello, Henry!
In 1845 a young Henry David Thoreau withdrew from friends and began living as he had yearned to for a while. He build a tiny log cabin in the Massachusetts woods not far from Concord. He spent his days contemplating the nature around Walden Pond, growing beans and making notes. Though almost unknown at the time, these reflections would later become his most well known book, WALDEN. This picture book imagines what it would have been like from the perspective of a young boy, to spend a day with Walden in these beloved surroundings. The author and illustrator have created a truly magical day from a child’s perspective with this young naturalist.
The reader witnesses a young boy arriving early at the cabin on the shore of a small forest pond. Inside we see the simplicity of Thoreau’s life in this cabin. He possessed a bed, table, three chairs and a kerosene lamp. Thoreau and the young boy spend their day going out on the boat and studying the fish in the ponds. They listen to the different birds and even see a hawk, as well as other mammals and insects as they walk in the woods, pick huckleberries and enjoy their natural surroundings. At the end of this special day, the young boy waves goodbye and Thoreau writes in his journal about all the two had experienced together.
Why I like this book:
Firstly, I have just recently come across Thoreau and his work, so I am thrilled to see this snippet of his amazing life presented in such an accessible and gorgeous way to young children. Thoreau’s appreciation for simplicity, his knowledge and appreciation of the Massachussets’ flora and fauna he knew well, and his gentle nature are shown through very simple text, glorious paintings and a child’s point of view. This is an example of an exemplary “quiet” picture book for me, one that will provoke thoughtfulness AND discussion with a young reader. Wendell Minor’s skill at landscapes and nature scenes never disappoint and I love that the publisher has chosen to use the end pages for a map of Walden Pond. The author includes two pages of pertinent facts about Thoreau for the curious reader as well as a page of some of his more famous quotes with modern interpretations.
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
You might also enjoy the review I wrote on FRIENDS OF THE EARTH A HISTORY OF AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM, which includes some pertinent details about Thoreau’s life.
The Thoreau Society established in 1941 is the oldest and largest organization devoted to an American author.