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Whittington (05 Edition)

by

Whittington (05 Edition) Cover

 

 

Excerpt

10

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; hed 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. Its called the Black Death.

“Dick Whittingtons 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 Im 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.

“His family was poor. The soil was thin and ill-tended. There wasnt enough food. There were no schools. The grandmother who lived with his family taught him to read. The priest had taught her. There were no printed books. She copied out things on scraps of stiffened cloth and scraped animal skins called parchments. She wrote down remedies, recipes, family records, and Bible passages the priest taught her.

“She smelled of the oils, herbs, and mint she used in the remedies she made. She was a midwife and a healer, one of the cunning folk they called her. The priest taught her reading and writing so she could copy recipes for remedies and keep the parish records. Dick gathered simples for her. He had a good eye. That was his work. Other boys his age picked stones from fields, gleaned corn, scared crows, drove geese. If you were idle you didnt eat.”

“What are simples?” the Lady wanted to know. The kids nodded. They didnt know either.

“Plants,” the cat said. “They made medicine then from leaves and blossoms, sap, roots. Dicks grandmother boiled and ground plants into ointments and syrups to heal people.”

“We fowl do that,” the Lady said, looking at Couraggio. “When were ill we know what to eat to get better.”

“We do too,” said Abby. “When were sick to the stomach Gran makes tea from the mint that grows around and stuff for hurts from tansy, the plant with yellow button flowers.”

“For colds she makes yarrow tonic and rose-hip paste,” said Ben. “She puts honey in the tonic. The rose stuff is bitter.”

“When Im sick I eat new grass,” the cat said.

“Okay,” said the Lady. “Go on with your story.”

“Dick was always surprised how warm his grandmother was when they sat close together. She read aloud the same things over and over, leading with her finger as she sounded out the letters. What he read to himself at first was what he remembered hearing as he followed her hand. Hed mouth the words as he went along, sounding them out. Not many of his time knew how to read and few of those learned silent reading. He was a mumbling reader all his life.

“One afternoon in the village he saw a gold coin. Hed been loitering around a stout stranger hoping to perform some service and earn a tip when the man went into the bakers. Dick followed him in and watched as the stranger bought a halfpennys worth of bread. The stranger got three round wheat loaves, honey-colored and heavy. He stuffed two into his coat and gave one to the boy. The man fumbled in his purse for a coin. He held it out for Dick to see. It was the size of a fingernail, stamped with a face. It gleamed like nothing Dick had ever seen before. What impressed him almost as much as its gleam was how carefully the baker studied it and weighed it and how many coins he gave in change.

“Then one day outside the inn he overheard a carter telling the men helping him unload barrels of cider that he had heard from a man who had been there that Londons streets were paved with gold and all the people were plump and healthy.

“That night Dick had a dream. He dreamed he went to London and became the stout stranger, filling his purse with the small gleaming rounds of gold that lay like pebbles in the streets. He went to the baker and stuffed his pockets, he went to the inn and was served roast meat and cider. In his dream he was never hungry again. He wore warm clothes and was never cold again either.

“He had heard talk that he was to be put in service to a tanner, a hard man who beat his boys and fed them poorly. Working with hides was a dirty, stinking business. The boys had to scrape off rotting flesh and hair and lift the heavy skins in and out of the tanbark vats. A boy in the tanners service had hawked up blood and died. Dick figured hed better get out on his own pretty quick.”

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375828645
Author:
Armstrong, Alan W.
Publisher:
Random House Books for Young Readers
Illustrator:
Schindler, S. D.
Author:
Schindler, S. D.
Author:
Armstrong, Alan
Author:
illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Subject:
Animals - Farm Animals
Subject:
Cats
Subject:
Legends, Myths, & Fables - Other
Subject:
Fairy Tales & Folklore - Single Title
Subject:
Children's 9-12 - Literature - Classics / Contemporary
Subject:
Animals - Cats
Subject:
Domestic animals
Subject:
Fairy Tales & Folklore - General
Subject:
Legends
Subject:
Children s-Fables
Edition Description:
Lst
Publication Date:
20050726
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 3 up to 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.66x6.02x.79 in. .77 lbs.
Age Level:
08-12

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Related Subjects

Children's » Animals » Animal Stories » General
Children's » Animals » Cats
Children's » Animals » Farm Animals
Children's » Awards » Newbery Award Winners
Children's » Fables
Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Middle Readers » Newbery Award Winners

Whittington (05 Edition) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.00 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Random House Books for Young Readers - English 9780375828645 Reviews:
"Review" by , "This superior novel interweaves animal fantasy and family story with a retelling of the English folktale 'Dick Whittington and His Cat.' Teachers and librarians take note: Whittington reads aloud beautifully, and the extended happy ending will leave everyone smiling in delight."
"Review" by , "The author skillfully intertwines the modern barnyard world, a subplot involving Ben's reading troubles, and the rags-to-riches folktale. The illustrator's pen and ink drawings convey both the warmth of modern barnyard life and the timelessness of the folktale."
"Synopsis" by , 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 Ladys a little hesitant at first, but when the cat claims to be a master ratter, that clinches it.

Bernies orphaned grandkids, Abby and Ben, come to the barn every day to help feed the animals. Abby shares her worry that Ben cant 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 Whittingtons 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.

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