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Whittington

Cover of Whittington

Whittington

The power of reading is beautifully captured in this 2006 Newbery Honor-winning book.
Bernie keeps a barn full of animals the rest of the world has no use for--two retired trotters, a rooster, some banty hens, and a Muscovy duck with clipped wings who calls herself The Lady. When the cat called Whittington shows up one day, it is to the Lady that he makes an appeal to secure a place in the barn. The Lady's a little hesitant at first, but when the cat claims to be a master ratter, that clinches it.
Bernie' s orphaned grandkids, Abby and Ben, come to the barn every day to help feed the animals. Abby shares her worry that Ben can't really read yet and that he refuses to go to Special Ed. Whittington and the Lady decide that Abby should give Ben reading lessons in the barn. It is a balm for Ben when, having toughed out the daily lesson, Whittington comes to tell, in tantalizing installments, the story handed down to him from his nameless forebearer, Dick Whittington's cat--the legend of the lad born into poverty in rural England during the Black Death, who runs away to London to seek his fortune. This is an unforgettable tale about how learning to read saves one little boy. It is about the healing, transcendent power of storytelling and how, if you have loved ones surrounding you and good stories to tell, to listen to, and to read, you have just about everything of value in this world.

From the Hardcover edition.

The power of reading is beautifully captured in this 2006 Newbery Honor-winning book.
Bernie keeps a barn full of animals the rest of the world has no use for--two retired trotters, a rooster, some banty hens, and a Muscovy duck with clipped wings who calls herself The Lady. When the cat called Whittington shows up one day, it is to the Lady that he makes an appeal to secure a place in the barn. The Lady's a little hesitant at first, but when the cat claims to be a master ratter, that clinches it.
Bernie' s orphaned grandkids, Abby and Ben, come to the barn every day to help feed the animals. Abby shares her worry that Ben can't really read yet and that he refuses to go to Special Ed. Whittington and the Lady decide that Abby should give Ben reading lessons in the barn. It is a balm for Ben when, having toughed out the daily lesson, Whittington comes to tell, in tantalizing installments, the story handed down to him from his nameless forebearer, Dick Whittington's cat--the legend of the lad born into poverty in rural England during the Black Death, who runs away to London to seek his fortune. This is an unforgettable tale about how learning to read saves one little boy. It is about the healing, transcendent power of storytelling and how, if you have loved ones surrounding you and good stories to tell, to listen to, and to read, you have just about everything of value in this world.

From the Hardcover edition.

Available formats-
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Copies-
  • Available:
    0
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.9
  • Lexile:
    760
  • Interest Level:
    MG
  • Reading Level:
    3 - 6

Recommended for you


Excerpts-
  • Chapter One The Man Whittington Named Himself After
    Bernie had to leave while he could still get the truck up. The kids wanted to stay. He said okay. Abby had a watch; he'd collect them at three by the highway.

    They could hear the storm. The wind sent flakes in through the cracks and the broken-out window up top. Ben shivered. The Lady had the kids pull down fresh hay. It fluffed up and smelled LIKE summer. She made the horses lie down close together and had the kids snuggle next to them. She settled herself on one fluff, Couraggio on another. The bantams made a show of flying up to the rafters and perching WHERE they could look over everything in comfort.

    The cat was full of tuna. He wanted to lie down in a warm place too. The Lady told him to get up on the stall railing where everybody could see him.

    "Now go on with your story," she said.

    "Story? What story?" the kids chorused.

    Whittington shook himself. "This is the story of rats and the cats that hunt them. Rats carry the fleas that carry plague. Plague makes your groin and underarms swell up and your tongue turn black. You get buboes and spots and foam at the mouth and die in agony. It's called the Black Death.

    "Dick Whittington's cat won him a fortune because she was a rat-hunter. Centuries before they figured out what plague was and how it spread, people knew that a good rat-hunter could save your life.

    "The man I'm named for was born about the time the Black Death hacked through England LIKE a filthy knife. By the time he was five years old a quarter of his town was empty. It was a horrible loneliness.

    "His family was poor. The soil was thin and ill-tended. There wasn't enough food. There were no schools. The grandmother who lived with his family taught him to read. The priest had taught her. There were no printed books. She copied out things on scraps of stiffened cloth and scraped animal skins called parchments. She wrote down remedies, recipes, family records, and Bible passages the priest taught her.

    "She smelled of the oils, herbs, and mint she used in the remedies she made. She was a midwife and a healer, one of the cunning folk they called her. The priest taught her reading and writing so she could copy recipes for remedies and keep the parish records. Dick gathered simples for her. He had a good eye. That was his work. Other boys his age picked stones from fields, gleaned corn, scared crows, drove geese. If you were idle you didn't eat."

    "What are simples?" the Lady wanted to know. The kids nodded. They didn't know either.

    "Plants," the cat said. "They made medicine then from leaves and blossoms, sap, roots. Dick's grandmother boiled and ground plants into ointments and syrups to heal people."

    "We fowl do that," the Lady said, looking at Couraggio. "When we're ill we know what to eat to get better."
    "We do too," said Abby. "When we're sick to the stomach Gran makes tea from the mint that grows around and stuff for hurts from tansy, the plant with yellow button flowers."

    "For colds she makes yarrow tonic and rose-hip paste," said Ben. "She puts honey in the tonic. The rose stuff is bitter."

    "When I'm sick I eat new grass," the cat said.

    "Okay," said the Lady. "Go on with your story."

    "Dick was always surprised how warm his grandmother was when they sat close together. She read aloud the same things over and over, leading with her finger as she sounded out the letters. What he read to himself at first was what he remembered hearing as he followed her hand. He'd mouth the words as he went along, sounding them out. Not many of his time knew how to read and few of those learned silent reading. He was a...
About the Author-
  • Alan Armstrong started volunteering in a friend's bookshop when he was eight. At 14, he was selling books at Brentano's. As an adult, every so often, he takes to the road in a VW bus named Zora to peddle used books. He is the editor of Forget Not Mee & My Garden, a collection of the letters of Peter Collinson, the 18th-century mercer and amateur botanist. He lives with his wife, Martha, a painter, in Massachusetts.

Reviews-
  • School Library Journal, starred "This superior novel interweaves animal fantasy and family story with a retelling of the English folktale "Dick Whittington and His Cat." Teachers and librarians...take note: Whittington reads aloud beautifully, and the extended happy ending will leave everyone smiling in delight."
Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Random House Children's Books
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Digital Rights Information+
  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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