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Children’s Book of the Week: Whitefoot

Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World by Wendell Berry, illustrated by Davis TeSelle

Oh boy is this ever a Henry book. I grabbed it from the library because it’s by Wendell Berry, and about a mouse, and didn’t really pay any attention to what it was until we sat down to read it as a before-bed chapter book. Eli lasted about two pages before declaring he was ready to sleep, so Henry and Zuzu and I read on. It’s not really a chapter book, so, well, we just kept reading, and 40 minutes later we were done, and we all felt special and transformed from having spent those 40 minutes thinking about the world from a mouse’s perspective.

Wendell Berry is a poet, and the prose does have a poetic feel, but not in the overly-flowery way, rather in the economy-of-words way. Which works perfectly for telling a story about a mouse. The illustrations work brilliantly with the prose, too, and certainly helped in drawing us into the story (they’re realistic and detailed pencil drawings). Whitefoot is a mouse who gets caught in a flood, and floats down river on a log. That’s about all that happens. Still, it’s amazing and wonderful to think about how a mouse would actually feel in such a situation. Plus I appreciated an animal book, from an animal’s perspective, but that didn’t anthropomorphize the animal. Whitefoot doesn’t talk, and doesn’t think in human terms. Some kids might get bored by the lack of talking animals, or the lack of relative action, but if your child is interested in animals, it’s a winner.

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5 Responses to “Children’s Book of the Week: Whitefoot”

  1. 1
    Elizabeth:

    Speaking of poets who write children’s books, do you have Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall? I think it won the Caldecott in 1980. I highly recommend it. We all love it…it is nice to find such quiet kids’ books in the midst of so much “Wham! Crash! Non-Stop Action!”

  2. 2
    Julie:

    You know, I think I’ve picked up Ox-Cart Man off the library shelf and put it back for some reason. I’ll check it out again next time we go to the library. I agree that it’s nice to have something to counteract “I’m Trashy!” and the like.

  3. 3
    Eric Judge:

    Whitefoot was great as is the Ox-cart Man. If there is a children’s book that illustrates some of Berry’s themes it is Ox-cart Man. I have enjoyed both with my children. Happy reading

  4. 4
    Clog:

    Donald Hall is one of my favorite poets along with his deceased wife, Jane Kenyon.

  5. 5
    Elizabeth:

    Me, too. And a total aside, on books to not read to your toddlers and preschoolers, I highly recommend his memoirs, Unpacking the Boxes and The Best Day The Worst Day: Life With Jane Kenyon.

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