Yearling, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD
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Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
ernie and Marion are raising their grandchildren, ten-year-old Abby and eight-year-old Ben. The children's mother died and their father's location is unknown. Abby had a difficult time when Mom died, refusing to attend school until Grandma took her there each day and sat in the classroom, becoming a teacher's aide. Ben's reading is below grade level; he is easily frustrated and quick to anger. He reads letters backwards: d's as b's'; b's as d's, and so on. Special Ed tutors and his sister Abby are diligent in their attempts to help.
ernie is a tall, lanky man, with wavy, gray hair, a high voice, and a face like Abraham Lincoln's. Besides attending to the local Texaco gas station, Bernie owns a property with a large barn. He is known for taking in unwanted animals, misfits and rejects - including two retired,
Arabian horses; a zealous rooster; egg-laying bantam hens; Norway rats (who arrived on their own); and a Muscovy duck with clipped wings, known as Lady. Even clipped, Lady's wings '
could knock a rat silly
'. The self-assured Lady is the '
Law of the barn
'. She boasts that '
There's a college in England where they honor my line by marching behind a duck held aloft on a pole. It has to do with the wings of knowledge
', whereupon Lady flaps her wings to make her point.
hittington - a fine-looking cat with a bent ear - joins the animals, needing a place to live after his master and friend was sent away from home because of learning difficulties. Winter arrives, freezing Lady's pond, and hardening the ground. As the days become colder and boring, each animal is asked to tell how they came to be at Bernie's barn - Li'l Spooker and Aramis describe their Arabian ancestry, while the bantam hens tell of their rescue from a public livestock auction. But Whittington, a '
' by nature, narrates his tale over many days to the barn animal audience (including Abby and Ben). He is '
descended from Richard 'Dick' Whittington's cat of centuries past
', and tells Dick's story and how he '
owed his fortune in part to his cat, who was an exceptional rat-hunter.
lan Armstrong's wonderful caper is skillfully executed. Illustrator S. D. Schindler's feathery sketches portray the story's animals, humans, and the trading ships that once sailed the seas. Armstrong provides references to the
Richard Whittington, a younger son of a nobleman, born in Gloucestershire in the late 1350s, who made his fortune as a wealthy mercer, with a nameless cat by his side.
is woven with multi-storylines - a dyslexic boy straining to read; a collection of caring animals, each with their own survival story; and feline Whittington himself, the remarkable descendant of an extraordinary sixteenth century cat.
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