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Walden Then & Now: An Alphabetical Tour of Henry Thoreau's Pond    by Michael McCurdy Amazon.com order for
Walden Then & Now
by Michael McCurdy
Order:  USA  Can
Charlesbridge, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Michael McCurdy has created a rather unusual alphabet book that finds its inspiration in the pages of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Just as Thoreau reflected on the beauty of nature, so, too, does the author in each passage that features one of the letters of the alphabet.

Take Z for example. 'Z is for the cooling zephyr on a summer night,' writes McCurdy. Then beneath this simple sentence he ties it into Thoreau. 'A zephyr is a gentle breeze from the west, he explains. Henry liked to float in his boat on the pond sometimes, drifting wherever the zephyr took him. The zephyr must have offered great relief to Henry and the other citizens of Concord during New England's humid summer days just as it still does today.'

Now I have to admit this seems like quite a stretch to make Z fit into the book's theme. But if you check the Source Notes at the back of the book, you'll discover that, sure enough, in chapter nine (section B, paragraph 7) of Walden, Thoreau does indeed write, 'I have spent many an hour, when I was younger, floating over (the pond's) surface as the zephyr willed.'

McCurdy's exquisite wood engravings, used to illustrate each page, provide as much a reason to purchase the volume as the author's text.

Although the publisher recommends this book for all age levels, I think it is really only appropriate for children with solid reading skills. Many older readers, especially those who love Thoreau's work, will find this a delightful book, so don't assume Walden Then & Now is only for children!

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