Name of Book: Whittington
Author: Alan Armstrong
Illustrator: S. D. Schindler
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Audience: Ages 8 and up
Summary: This is a story of the animals that live in Bernie’s barn. Bernie takes in the animals that no one else has any use for – two retired sulky horses, an overly enthusiastic rooster, a Muscovy duck with clipped wings. It’s also a story of Bernie’s grandson, Ben, who is reading below grade level and struggles with lessons. To this community comes the storytelling cat, Whittington. His story of Dick Whittington, a man who once made his fortune because of a nameless cat, acts as a balm for Ben after his grueling lessons to learn to read.
This is also a novel 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 something of true value in this world.
Literary elements at work in the story: Whittington is a science fiction chapter book (subgenre: personified animals) that was a Newbery Honor Book in 2006. There is also some history in this book which was well researched and cleverly employed in Whittington’s storytelling.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability: The “law” in the barn is the Moscovy duck. What the Lady says, goes and all look to her for leadership. It is primarily due to her that all of the animals in the barn can live peacefully together. She even makes a pact with the rats that allows them to live in the barn if they will stop stealing the grain, eggs, and baby animals that live there.
Scripture: Hebrews 13:2
Theology: This is a rich tale of the “other” – outcasts, throw aways – and how they come together as a community to support, defend, and care for each other.
Faith Talk Questions:
- How did the animals in the barn help Ben to learn to read? The Lady said they all passed the third grade when Ben did. What do you think she meant by that?
- In what ways did the barn animals take care of each other? Why do you think they did that?
- Do you have a best friend? What makes that person your best friend? What would you be willing to do to help your friends?
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Student Kelly Hames
Whittington by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.