Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between

Holiday House. Nov. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823448586.
Gr 1-4–The seasons of winter 1846 to winter 1847 structure a surprising juxtaposition at Walden. “Oddball” Henry David Thoreau meditates, and “bankrupt” Frederic Tudor exploits: a tenuous connection, but young Thoreau’s imagination is caught by the journey of the ice that middle-aged Tudor daringly ships to India. Tudor rejected a Harvard education and failed many times, but persevered through business reverses to make, lose, and regain a fortune. As with Cline-Ransome’s Overground Railroad and Before She Was Harriet, the text is lyrical, unpunctuated free verse, which can sometimes be a challenge to readers. For example, the absence of punctuation in this book can lead to unintended absurdities, such as the suggestion of fish in trees: “circled by pine and oak/ home to perch and pickerel.” Cline-Ransome adroitly uses parallel phrasing to underscore the differences and similarities linking these men, whose public images radically evolved. Atmospheric watercolor illustrations splash ice blue across many pages, relieved by green in warmer months and climes. Yazdani expertly depicts ice-cutting, storage, and shipping, using bold compositions and perspectives, including a bird’s-eye view into Thoreau’s cabin (alert readers will find three chairs, not the text’s two) and a vignette where Thoreau pours water caught by a hand in India. Pair this title with Robert Burleigh’s If You Spent a Day with Thoreau at Walden Pond, D.B. Johnson’s “Henry” series, or Bill Montague’s Little Mouse; though these titles are for similar ages, they cover only Thoreau, unlike this text that includes the contrast to Tudor.
VERDICT This unusual and striking double portrayal will appeal to nascent nature-lovers and embryo entrepreneurs.

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