Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Henry David's House

http://www.thewellspringschool.org[Children] should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.  ~Henry David Thoreau

http://thewellspringschool.orgYears ago I had the pleasure of spending a day at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.  I went by myself, hiked around the pond, and sat on its banks to read Walden.  It was an idyllic pre-children day.

This past summer, when we again found ourselves in the Boston suburbs, I took the kids to visit the pond.


It was a warm day, and we spent the morning dipping our toes in the cold (frigid, really, even in late August)  water before taking the hike out to see the site of Thoreau's legendary cabin. 


The foundation is still there, and visitors can go visit a replica of the legendary cabin.  The hike was much longer than I recalled, especially with a toddler who did not want to be carried yet was not really able to walk very well. 


But we did enjoy playing by the pile of rocks that many visitors have left by the cabin site to commemorate their visit and the influential work of Thoreau.

Given our love of this place, I was very excited to find the book Henry David's House, edited by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Peter Fiore.



Schnur distills Thoreau's great philosophical work on nature and simplicity into a diary format, including details of life by the pond that children can relate to.  Included are passages describing the selection of the building site, the construction of the cabin, the labor involved in building it, the wildlife surrounding it, the visitors Thoreau entertained there, and the changing of the seasons during the year he spent living there.  The inclusion of small details, such as the "two or three small maples turned scarlet across the pond" on the first of September and "the whooping of the ice in the pond" as it froze in winter really bring life at Walden alive for the reader, as well as encouraging children to become attuned to the sights, sounds, and smells around them.  The oil paintings are a beautiful, simple complement to the text.  I especially love the picture of Thoreau playing his flute in a rowboat surrounded by lily pads - very Monet-esque.  I can't wait to bring this book along on our next trip to Concord!

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