Whittington is a tough cat, with a hitch in his back, a torn ear, and a slight attitude. But Whittington also has a noble family history that goes all the way back to the 1300’s. When Whittington is abandoned by his family he goes in search of a new home, finally ending up at Bernie’s barn.
Bernie is an old man with a small farm and paddock. He also has a reputation for taking in all the strays and unwanted animals that other people want to get rid off. From old horses, to pigs, roosters, and finally Whittington the cat, Bernie takes care of new animals, and houses them in his barn.
Little does Bernie realize, but the animals that live in his barn have a special relationship of their own. When adults are around the animals stay silent, but when they are alone, or with Bernie’s grandchildren Abby and Ben, they tell stories and talk between themselves.
Ten year old Abby, and eight year old Ben love to spend time in Bernie’s barn with the animals. When Whittington joins the collection of animals who have found refuge with Bernie, he must tell his own story to the other animals. It is customary in Bernie’s barn that new animals must tell their life story and history to the others.
And so Whittington begins telling the tale of a young boy named Dick, and an extraordinary cat that lived hundreds of years ago. This cat was an ancestor of Whittington, and in its life it brought his master Dick great fame and fortune.
The animals enjoy Whittington’s historical story, and at the same time the story inspires young Ben, who is struggling with his dyslexia in an attempt to learn to read. The perseverance shown by Dick, and the help of Abby, the cat Whittington, and the other animals finally helps Ben to overcome his fear of reading.
I feel that “Whittington” is a great story in all respects. Alan Armstrong masterfully develops the story in two parallel directions, showing Whittington’s fascinating historical ancestor, and at the same time portraying Ben’s struggle to learn to read.
I liked the calm, peaceful feeling of “Whittington.” The animal characters are intelligent and masterful. Their personalities and relationships teach Abby and Ben, and at the same time make the plot interesting.
“Whittington,” by Alan Armstrong is a book that I would definitely recommend to all young readers.
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