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.
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|Title of eBook: Whittington|
|Release Date: 07-08-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Children's Books|
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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.