Reviews for Thoreau at Walden


Booklist Reviews 2008 March #2
The latest high-quality graphic-format book from folks associated with the Center for Cartoon Studies introduces another significant historical personage, Henry David Thoreau. Although the life and work of the nineteenth-century transcendental philosopher and protoenvironmentalist might seem an odd choice for adaptation into sequential art, Porcellino, alternative comics writer/artist and master of the minicomic, has found a way to translate Thoreau's thinking into an involving read that exudes lightness and tranquility. Marrying his minimalist line work to Thoreau's minimalist philosophy, Porcellino manages a striking unity of words and art that works as an effective ode to simplicity. Thoreau's writings, excerpted out of chronological order, are recast into a narrative that moves from the philosopher's self-ostracism from society and his time at Walden and into the feeling of calm reverie he took from his experiences. This will be a difficult sell to casual readers, but budding philosophers and readers looking for an unusual work will be delighted. Extensive endnotes include explanations and attributions for the excerpts and a short bibliography. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 April #1
Pairing terse extracts from Thoreau's writings with very simple line drawings in squared-off panels, Porcellino artfully presents a compelling sense of the philosopher's voice, his powers of observation and his sensitivity to the world around him. Sandwiched between an introduction by D.B. Johnson (Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, 2000, etc.) and an extensive closing section of citations and commentary, the account picks up as Thoreau realizes, wandering through Concord, that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." This leads to Thoreau's simple life at Walden Pond and the brief arrest for tax evasion that provided the occasion for "Civil Disobedience," closing with his conclusion that "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." By mixing panels with and without text, Porcellino creates a poetic alternation of words and silences that effectively draws the reader into Thoreau's point of view. This graphic portrait will enrich the insight into his life and character afforded by Johnson's fictionalized episodes, or Robert Burleigh's Man Named Thoreau (1985). (bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2008 March
Author John Porcellino takes the reader on a journey through Thoreau's mind during his time at Walden Pond. Thoreau gives glimpses into the effect that living such a life has on him. The ending takes Thoreau away, but leaves readers with the sense that they have learned a powerful lesson. The text was selected from Thoreau's vast writings, and Porcellino's minimalist drawings lend intensity to the words. An author's note explains changes he made to Thoreau's words, and historically relevant information. While this book provides an interesting and new way to experience Thoreau, it might be a too esoteric for most readers. This would be appropriate for those libraries that have specific interests or collections on Thoreau. Additional Selection. Donna Knott, Middle School Librarian, The Lovett School, Atlanta, Georgia © 2008 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 March

Gr 7 Up -This book is true in spirit to Thoreau's writings and to underground comics. It is fairly linear, using short quotes and simple line drawings to tell of the time the philosopher spent at Walden Pond. Porcellino chose many well-known sayings and events and placed them within a spare visual context-the woods are little more than gray shading, Thoreau himself a few smooth lines in the foreground. Despite its simple design, or more likely because of it, Thoreau's sometimes-difficult philosophical statements are clearly articulated. Best known for his cry of "simplify, simplify, simplify," the philosopher's ideas are well served by Porcellino's lean interpretation of the work of this seminal American icon.-Steev Baker, Kewaskum Public Library, WI

[Page 226]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2008 February
I was not born to be forced. . . . I will breathe after my own fashion. Henry David Thoreau was definitely a man who followed his own fashion, not caring one bit what others thought. From 1845-1847, he lived in solitude in a house he built himself on Walden Pond. On a rare visit to town, he was jailed briefly for not paying taxes. His independent lifestyle and thought-provoking declarations have inspired many since then. Porcellino follows Thoreau through those two years, setting his words in a series of black-and-white cartoon panels Unfortunately the drawings are amateurish and unappealing; diminishing any affect Thoreau's statements might have upon readers discovering him for the first time. Truly Thoreau was a simple dresser, but here he appears to be wearing a cereal bowl upon his head. His slash of a mouth changes positions to express emotions. The townspeople appear confused or angry; some are merely heads floating through space. In an afterword, "panel discussions" provide further explanations behind the illustrated events. There is also a short recap of Thoreau's life. For a man with such a huge influence, which continues even today, one would expect much more striking artwork using bold, vibrant colors to frame his discourses.-Pam Carlson $9.99 Trade pb. ISBN 978-1-4231-0039-3. Biblio. Source Notes. 2Q 2P J S G Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.

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