The Book Reviews – Website

January 13, 2008

Whittington

Whittington

Author: Alan Armstrong

Page Length: 191

Reading Level: 4th

Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Taking a look at the cover of this book, one may think that this is a simple story about a cat. However, this book contains three main stories.

 

The first story is about a cat, Whittington, and the simple adventures with his barnyard friends – such as Lady, the duck, Coraggio, the rooster, Havey, the dog, and Aramis, the race horse. In this book, the animals have dialogue with each other. Besides the animals who can understand one another, the grandchildren of the farmer, Bernie, can hear these creatures.   

 

This leads us to the second story-line. Bernie, the farmer, is one of those men who would take in any creature that others will not keep. He is a simple man with a tender heart. He has two grandchildren, Ben and Abby who attend school. Ben is a boy with a slight temper. He also struggles with reading. One could say his temper comes from the frustration with books. Whittington, the cat, makes note that he used to be the pet for a boy who struggled with reading too until the boy’s parents sent him off to a “special school”. Whittington was without love and support from then on.

 

The main character of the book is the cat, Whittington. To all the animals in the barn as well as Ben and Abby, he tells stories of the adventures of a boy named Dick Whittington. This leads us to the third story-line. These stories about Dick Whittington are told by Whittington the cat after Abby helps Ben with his reading lessons in the barn. Whittington, the cat, says that he got his name from Dick Whittington whose story has been handed down from one generation to another in his cat lineage. Whittington, the cat, says that Dick Whittington was English and lived a hundred years before Columbus. Dick Whittington had a cat that made him a fortune due to his rat-hunting abilities. Also, stories of spice trading and sea voyages flow from the cat’s mouth. Listening to the cat’s stories captivate all the animals as well as Ben who is learning to read better every day. Lessons with a Reading Recovery teacher during the summer also aid Ben in making sure he is not held back a grade.

 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: References to “Special Ed” and other labels such as on page 44 may raise a few eyebrows from the more conservative audience or immature student.

 

HELPFUL NOTE / AREAS FOR TEACHING: The ending of this book is very positive yet felt a little rushed. A lot of the information in the Endnotes is alluded to in the last few chapters. For those who like to skip to the end for a better reference of who Dick Whittington was, read the Endnotes on pages 187-191. This will give you a glimpse into the legend of the man upon which this story is loosely based. This book is part fact and part fiction. If you use the Endnotes along with this story, one might teach a good lesson about history and literature.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.longlongtimeago.com/llta_folktales_dickwhittington.html

 

http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9076894/Dick-Whittington

 

http://www.mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/306.htm

 

http://www.xmission.com/~emailbox/whittington.htm

 

http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-armstrong-alan.asp

 

http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/teachers_guides/9780375828652.pdf

 

http://www.teachertimesavers.com/Whittington%20pages.pdf

 

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

 

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