Whitefoot – A Story from the Center of the World
by Wendell Berry, published 2009
“Her name was Peromyscus leucopus, but she did not know it. I think it had been a long time since the mice around Port William spoke English, let alone Latin.”
If you are looking for an inspiring children’s book that lets you and your young child revel in nature and language, this is the one. Wendell Berry is known more for his compelling essays on nature, and his wonderful novels about fictional Port William. This small little children’s book has the best elements of both: combining fiction and non-fiction into a little tale. It is lyrical, it is sensitive, it is keenly accurate, and it is accompanied by the most delicate illustrations one could find in a children’s book.
I don’t know what Berry’s intentions were for the book. Certainly the language is not “Dick and Jane” language. However, I can imagine reading it to a young one, five to eight, and having the delight of explaining some of the words, thereby enriching the experience even more. Regardless of the vocabulary, the descriptions of the world of a little mouse, as he floats on a tree in a flood, makes the natural world so real, so important, that language will not obstruct the understanding.
For me, the best reason to share this book with a child is to engender the sensitivity to the natural world that is Wendell Berry. At a later age, children will discover him on their own, but this is a sweet way to introduce them to someone who is leaving a legacy that is immeasurable for future generations and the planet. Share this with a young child you love, and plant the seeds for stewardship and love of the earth at an early age.
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Whitefoot by Wendell Berry
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Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World