A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau

A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau

by Gerald Hausman, Loretta Hausman

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It's July 4, 1845. A soft-spoken young man named Henry David Thoreau has carefully constructed a small, simple cabin in the woods overlooking Walden Pond. For the next two years, his closest companions will be the chickadees, the woodchucks, and the quiet pines of the Walden Woods.

Henry is twenty-eight years old, and his life has not been easy. His

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It's July 4, 1845. A soft-spoken young man named Henry David Thoreau has carefully constructed a small, simple cabin in the woods overlooking Walden Pond. For the next two years, his closest companions will be the chickadees, the woodchucks, and the quiet pines of the Walden Woods.

Henry is twenty-eight years old, and his life has not been easy. His brother John—his closest friend and companion—has died. The only woman he ever loved has rejected him. On this day he has come to Walden in search of truth—not the truth taught in schools or in church, but the truth he can feel dwelling deep within him.

Henry opens his journal and begins to write:

I went to the woods because I wished to
live deliberately, to front only the essential
facts of life, and see if I could not
learn what it had to teach, and not,
when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Follow Henry into the woods and out again—through a courageous American life that has changed our world for the better.

For ages 12 and up.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
In this fictionalized biography, the Hausmans address the young Thoreau and the seeds of his freethinking ideas. While the narrative is chronological, the emphasis is on the stages of his life most likely to resonate with young readers. We are afforded glimpses into his family history, the influences of stories (especially those told by women), and the growing sense, as he developed the quirks of his individuality, that young Henry was "an odd stick." Delightful touches of context and setting abound--squealing pigs behind Harvard's University Hall, the mountain laurel at Walden Pond, a striking scene in which Henry as teacher shows his students how to look at a rock. Rebellion and resistance are featured as well in the poll tax incident and Thoreau's admiration of John Brown. His views on many subjects from conservation to slavery are presented in the context of his life. Short chapters center on specific periods, sometimes around particular formative incidents. The extent of fictionalization is explained relatively clearly in an introduction. Dialogue has been crafted from the writings of Thoreau and his contemporaries, with much reliance on his personal notebooks. Thoreauvian humor is evident in both the excerpts of text from such writings and in the way it infuses the fictional conversations. The narrative is simple and direct in the manner of the man himself and provides a good introduction to his work for young readers. Back matter includes a chronology, an annotated glossary, and a bibliography.
This quiet biography of one of the country's most celebrated writers captures the spirit of Henry David Thoreau but may not be quite so successful in capturing readers' imaginations. The volume focuses on Thoreau's childhood, education, relationship with his older brother John, unrequited love of Ellen Sewall, sharp observation of the natural world, experience at Walden Pond, and relationship with the abolitionist John Brown. Although Thoreau's lifelong interest in writing and struggle to achieve success as a writer is discussed, there are very few quotations from his writing or descriptions of his work. The Hausmans draw heavily from Thoreau's journals to shape their biography, but they spend surprisingly little space presenting him as a writer. The book's portrait of Thoreau's thoughtful reticence and laconic sense of humor is very convincing, but the attempt to mirror his indirect witticisms, many-faceted metaphors, and symbolic turns of phrase results in a volume that is sometimes more anecdotal in style than narrative. This approach also results in a portrait of his quirky individualism that always remains a bit distant. Similarly Thoreau's life was generally quiet, even in the midst of great events, and the authors have resisted any temptation to indulge in drama or emotional excess. In the end, readers might find it difficult to understand, because of this book's very accuracy, why Thoreau is considered so influential a writer and civic figure. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Trumpeter Books/ShambhalaPublications, 148p.; Glossary. Biblio. Chronology., Ages 11 to 15.
—Megan Lynn Isaac
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This well-researched novel expertly captures Thoreau's character and life in mid-19th-century Massachusetts. Despite frequent bouts with tuberculosis, the man who lived for two years in Walden woods introduced innovations to his family's pencil business, ran a school with his brother, and went on hiking and boating expeditions. His integrity was remarkable, as evidenced when he helped fugitive slaves or spent a night in jail over a point of principle. For much of his life, Thoreau wandered seemingly without direction, but, when viewed as a whole, his life was spent developing a personal philosophy. This book makes clear that Thoreau was the product of both a loving, supportive family and New England's Transcendentalist movement. Though at times the dialogue seems stilted and overly philosophical, careful readers will have much to mull over, and they will savor the adventures of this great American thinker. It's a quick inspirational read for budding naturalists or for those who feel as though they don't fit into their own time and place.-Christina Stenson-Carey, Albany Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Thoreau is a man best understood by the young whose minds are still free. The Hausmans have written A Mind with Wings especially for them. It soars!"—D. B. Johnson, author of Henry Builds a House and Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

"Along with Lincoln and Washington, Thoreau is one of the most important characters in our national history—the very model for a kind of stubborn and lovely American rebelliousness. This book captures him at his most human: equal parts difficult and deeply alive."—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"I've often wondered what it might have been like to walk with Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's great mind, social conscience, and open heart are on display in this beautifully written and frequently moving story of one of the greatest of all American writers."—Joseph Bruchac, author of Thirteen Moons on a Turtle's Back

"A marvelous blending of the many-sided life of Henry David Thoreau—known from his childhood as Old Stick. He would over his lifetime polish his old stick namesake of knotty, slender twists and bends into a character that exemplified right living and civil disobedience, both of which we are in great need of at just this moment."—David Kherdian, author of The Road from Home: A True Story of Courage, Survival, and Hope

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Product Details

Shambhala Publications, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

The first overnight visitor to Henry's hermitage at Walden Pond was his friend
Ellery Channing. Seeing the house for the first time, Ellery said, "Why it's a wooden inkstand." By which he meant, of course, that Henry's house was a writer's house. Made by and for a writer. Ellery also commented that the house was so small that by standing on a chair you could reach into the attic,
and by lowering a broom handle you could touch the bottom of the cellar. Ellery later wrote, "It had no lock to the door, no curtain to the window, and belonged to nature nearly as much as to man."

In early November, when Ellery came to visit, the leaves had already gone from gold to brown. "I brought you one of your mother's boiled apple puddings," Ellery said with a grin, taking a seat outside in the warm rays of the sun.

Henry spoke, Ellery listened. It was his habit to wait a few moments after
Henry had stopped talking, just to make sure he was not about to start up again. This was both polite and practical. Ellery found what Henry had to say worth remembering.

On this particular fall day, Henry pleased Ellery with a homespun little rhyme—

seek the present time,

No other chime

Life in to-day—

Not to sail another way,—

Paris or to Rome,

Or farther still from home . . .

very nice, Henry. But what of the book you're writing?"

it's being written. Daily. All by itself. I look and listen, and the book does the writing."

Henry made an outdoor lunch, and while the last autumn leaves lazed on their stems and the pine needles glistened, Henry roasted corn on the coals of an outdoor fire pit. He had baked bread that morning, and the two men drank fresh water from Walden Pond, and then there was the apple pudding for dessert.

"Tell me," said Ellery, after he'd finished the last mouthful of pudding,
"about this book-writing machine of yours."

"See for yourself," Henry teased, in return. Then he pursed his lips. In a reedy voice, Henry sang, "Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee."

At once a slate-colored bird dropped out of a pine tree and hopped onto Henry's
Vermont gray coat. The small bird pecked at some threads, and then did a little dance down to Henry's hand. Pinched between Henry's fingers was a soft kernel of corn. The bird took it, and flew off.

I have chapter 1," Henry said, laughing.

"What is chapter 2?" Ellery asked.

Henry stood up, and went inside his house. He returned a moment later with a flute upon which he blew a few airy notes.

Out from under Henry's house, a small brown mouse came scurrying. Two more ethereal notes, and the mouse scampered up Henry's corduroy pants.

2," Henry said.

watching with fascination, started to laugh. "I think I've seen what you're up to."

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