Monday, June 24, 2013

Picture Book Monday - A review of If you spent a day with Thoreau at Walden Pond

Years ago, when my husband was doing his graduate degree at Harvard, I visited him and he took me to Walden Pond. It was a clear day in early fall and I fell in love with the place at once, taking dozens of photographs of the trees, the pond, and the little treasures that I saw about me. Today's picture book captures the magic of Walden Pond, taking readers back in time so that they can explore the special place with Henry David Thoreau, who lived near the pond for two years.

Robert Burleigh
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Henry Holt, 2012, 978-0-8050-9137-3
More than one hundred and fifty years ago, a man called Henry David Thoreau left his town life and went to live in the woods next to Walden Pond, which is near the town of Concord in Massachusetts.  He lived in a tiny cabin that he built himself, and explored the woods around his home, getting to know the plants and animals intimately. He wrote down notes in his journal, and later Thoreau wrote a book about his life in the little cabin. It was called Walden, or Life in the Woods, and it is now considered to be one of America’s greatest books.
   In this book readers are invited to imagine what it would be like to spend a day with Thoreau at Walden Pond. As readers explore Thoreau’s world, they will see how simple and yet how rich his life was.
   If you could go back in time to visit Thoreau you would have to get to his cabin early because Thoreau “wakes with the sun.” Perhaps you and Thoreau would go out onto the pond in a little row boat. You could help him weed his bean patch and walk with him in the woods. You wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost because Henry knows his way around the woods. You might even go to Fair Haven Hill to pick huckleberries.
   Moving quietly through the woods and across the meadows you would see all kinds of animals. There in the sky is a hawk “soaring and tumbling, over and over.” You might chase after a fox, or watch two species of ants waging a war. With Thoreau for company you will learn how to see the natural world around you in a new way.
   In this unique picture book, Robert Burleigh’s beautifully spare prose is paired with Wendell Minor’s atmospheric illustrations to give readers a picture of what Thoreau’s life at Walden Pond was like. Readers will get a sense of how peaceful the time was, and how the simple life that Thoreau had allowed him to connect with his environment in a meaningful way.
   At the back of the book the author provides readers with further information about Thoreau and his time at Walden Pond. There is also a collection of quotations from Thoreau’s writings, all of which have relevance in the modern day. Since some of the quotations are written in language that is difficult to understand, the author provides readers with “modern interpretations,” to help us appreciate the sayings more fully.

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