I Begin With Spring: The Life and Seasons of Henry David Thoreau by Julie Dunlap, illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Baratta

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

Summary:  This biography of Henry David Thoreau looks like a nature journal, with lots of watercolor sketches of the flora and fauna Henry observed through a year in Concord.  A timeline running along the bottom of all the pages takes the reader through changes he would have seen through the seasons.  Beginning with his childhood and continuing through his years as a teacher, writer, activist, and naturalist, the story of Henry’s life is closely tied to Concord and the surrounding countryside. Includes additional information about Thoreau’s Kalendar that he was working on at the time of his death which was a record of his observations of nature over many years, and which has been used recently to track climate change.  There are also instructions for making your own Kalendar and a fairly extensive list of resources.  96 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  This beautiful volume combines lots of illustrations with an engaging narrative that integrates the seasons of the year with the story of Thoreau’s life. The additional information makes his work relevant today and encourages kids to pursue their own explorations of the natural world.

Cons:  While Henry’s abolitionist work is celebrated here, there’s no mention of the disturbingly racist ideas of his mentor Louis Agassiz.

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