Cover image for Henry David's house
Title:
Henry David's house
Author:
Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862.
Uniform Title:
Walden. Selections
Publication Information:
Watertown, MA : Charlesbridge, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 32 cm
Summary:
Excerpts from Thoreau's Walden highlight his belief in the inherent value of living life in harmony with nature.
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.5 0.5 57407.
ISBN:
9780881061161
Format :
Book

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Central Library PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Clarence Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
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Eggertsville-Snyder Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
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Summary

Summary

Young readers are introduced to Henry David Thoreau's masterpiece, Walden, through excerpts from the original work.


Author Notes

In September 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne noted this social encounter in his journal: "Mr. Thorow dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character---a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know." Most responses to Thoreau are as ambiguously respectful as was Hawthorne's. Thoreau was neither an easy person to like nor an easy writer to read.

Thoreau described himself as a mystic, a Transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher. He is a writer of essays about nature---not of facts about it but of his ideals and emotions in its presence. His wish to understand nature led him to Walden Pond, where he lived from 1845 to 1847 in a cabin that he built. Though he was an educated man with a Harvard degree, fluent in ancient and modern German, he preferred to study nature by living "a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust." Knowing this, we should beware of misreading the book that best reflected this great experience in Thoreau's life: Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). It is not a handbook of the simple life. Though there are elements in the book of a "whole-earth catalogue" mentality, to focus on the radical "economic" aspects of Thoreau's work is to miss much in the book. Nor is it an autobiography. The right way to read Walden is as a "transcendental" narrative prose poem, whose hero is a man named Henry, a modern Odysseus in search of a "true America."

Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1846, exactly two years, two months, and two days after he had settled there. As he explained in the pages of Walden: "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went to live there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." Growth, change, and development were essential to his character. One should not overlook the significance of his selecting July 4 as the day for taking possession of his residence at Walden Pond, a day that celebrates the establishment of a new government whose highest ideal is individual freedom. In terms of Thoreau's redefinition of the nation-idea, "the only true America" is that place where one may grow wild according to one's nature, where one may "enjoy the land, but own it not." Thoreau believed that each person should live according to individual conscience, willing to oppose the majority if necessary. An early proponent of nonviolent resistance, he was jailed briefly for refusing to pay his poll tax to support the Mexican War and the slave system that had promoted that war. His essay "On Civil Disobedience" (1849), which came from this period of passive resistance, was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi (who read it in a South African jail) as the basis for his campaign to free India. Martin Luther King, Jr. later attributed to Thoreau and Gandhi the inspiration for his leadership in the civil rights movement in the United States.

Thoreau contracted tuberculosis in 1835 and suffered from it sporadically afterwards. His health declined over three years with brief periods of remission, until he eventually became bedridden. Recognizing the terminal nature of his disease, Thoreau spent his last years revising and editing his unpublished works, particularly The Maine Woods and Excursions, and petitioning publishers to print revised editions of A Week and Walden. He died on May 6, 1862 at age 44.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-4. "Near the end of March I borrowed an ax and went down to the woods near Walden Pond . . . ." In brief, easy-reading passages chosen by Schnur, Thoreau describes the construction of his famous cottage, lists the possessions he filled it with, and tallies sights and sounds of the changing seasons, concluding, "We can never have enough of nature." Fiore's dappled, impressionistic woodland scenes make the sentiment easy to comprehend, though because his view is more often turned away from the actual house than toward it, children will see less of the building than its setting. Libraries needing a follow-up to offer picture-book audiences intrigued by Johnson's Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (2000) or Henry Builds a Cabin [BKL Mr 15 02] will be well served by this pleasing, sun-dappled picture book for older children. Schnur's afterword provides context. --John Peters


Publisher's Weekly Review

Schnur (The Shadow Children) deftly plucks Thoreau's own words from Walden, and Fiore's (The Boston Tea Party) luminous watercolor and oil paintings affectingly evoke the simplicity and serenity of this man's existence on his beloved pond. As Thoreau chronicles a key chapter in his life his 1845 construction of the one-room cabin that became his treasured abode he repeatedly marvels at the sights and sounds of the natural world, constantly changing with each season. Schnur's chosen passages reveal Thoreau as a participant in rather than merely an observer of nature: "Sometimes a rambler in the wood was attracted by the sound of my axe, and we chatted pleasantly over the chips which I had made." Spare yet eloquent, Thoreau's words offer intriguing insight into his lifestyle as well as his philosophy. Describing the minimal contents of his house, he notes, "My furniture, part of which I made myself, consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs (one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society)." Fiore's striking panoramas underscore the beauty and the appeal of the locale that became Thoreau's home and inspiration, while the interiors and spot art emphasize the simplicity of his lifestyle. Ages 5-9. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-Using selected highlights of Thoreau's own words, this picture-book adaptation of Walden, or Life in the Woods follows Henry David's building of his cabin, from borrowing neighbor Bronson Alcott's axe in March of 1845 to his first spring on Walden Pond. Because the words are exact quotes, the language is rather difficult at times, using a style and vocabulary that are more formal than that of modern language. In addition, while most of the text is written in the past tense, the part in which Thoreau describes his completed house uses present verb forms and, thus, is a bit unsettling to the ear. Still, the overall effect of the words is to establish a mood of tranquility. That mood is greatly reinforced by the full-page watercolor illustrations, and their impressionistic style often focuses on selected aspects of the author's descriptions, rather than trying to retell the complete story visually. The soft palette underscores the peacefulness and quiet in Nature that Thoreau went out to seek. While this book is not likely to be embraced by casual readers, it will be particularly useful to teachers of art and science, and to literature specialists interested in introducing listeners either to Thoreau's literary style or to the concept of journal writing. Consider also pairing it with some nature poetry to inspire students in creative-writing classes.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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