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A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau

February 6, 2011

Each Sunday, as our youngest is in choir practice, we spend time in the libraries of Unity Unitarian Universalist Church in St. Paul. One day I picked up this book, A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau by Gerald and Loretta Hausman, in the Children’s Library thinking it might be nice for my oldest daughter.  Instead, I’ve now spent three Sundays immersed in its pages.

While the intended audience is 4th-8th graders, I would recommend this book to any adult who wants to spend just a few hours refamiliarizing yourself with Thoreau. It’s a fast read, lyrical, not at all dumbed down. It leads you so well into Thoreau’s world that you begin to think of him in the present tense — how he thinks, what he feels. And, as with any well-written biography, even if you already know the mark Thoreau made on the world it makes you truly want to know what’s going to happen to him next. Here’s an excerpt:

One day at his grandmother’s farm in Concord, Henry saw something that made such an impression on him that it stayed with him for the rest of his life. His grandmother took Henry for a walk through the meadow and into the woods. There in the secret envelope of the hills was a great blue-green pond, set in the darkness of the forest. It astonished Henry that something so grand could be so hidden and yet so available to him once he was there.

The place was so quiet that the screech of a lone jaybird made Henry jump and hold tight to his grandmother’s hand. For a long time the two of them stared into the solitude of the place, until it gradually became their friend.

As soon as he could write, Henry picked up one of his father’s pencils and put down the name of this magical pond, this “eye in the woods,” as he called it.

“Walden Pond,” his grandmother had said.

Henry wrote the words and spoke them in his head. They were bright as the sun and dense as shadow, sweet like maidenhair fern and bitter as rotten birch.

In the words “Walden Pond” Henry felt his grandmother’s hand, and the big blue eye staring at him, asking “Who are you?”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2011 8:14 pm

    What a nice review of Gerry and Lorry Hausman’s book on Thoreau. Gerry and Lorry have an extensive list of books that speak to both children and adults. We give yearly writing workshops together every year. The Hausman’s knowledge of writing and publishing and their ability to inspire and encourage writers have made these workshops successful events each year. Thanks for getting the work out on a beautiful book.
    Alice Carney
    Director, Green River Writer’s Workshops

    • February 28, 2011 11:26 pm

      Thanks for finding this blog and for your comment! They really are wonderful writers. My hope is that this book will introduce my children to Thoreau early in life and set a foundation for reading Walden when they’re in high school or college. And thanks also for turning me on to the Green River Writer’s Workshops. They’re a bit far away for me but could well be worth the trip.

      Best regards,
      Mary-Margaret Zindren

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