Being Henry David
Written by Cal Armistead
Many books are about finding yourself, but what if you really had no idea at all who you are? What if you wake up in New York’s Penn Station with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden as your only possession? No name. Nothing. You can only guess you’re about seventeen years old. Using Thoreau as his guide, “Hank” gets back to essentials. He doesn’t want to go to the police in case he’s running from them. He ends up accepting help from another kid, who introduces him to his sister and shows him a spot to sleep in an alley. Then he really gets into trouble. He’s injured in a knife fight and uses his opponent’s cash to leave town and work his way to Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau’s home. In Concord, he follows Thoreau’s footsteps and befriends a Thoreau impersonator and a local girl. Slowly, his memory returns, but he’s still not sure why he’s running. The word sister means something to him. He knows how to play a guitar, but he doesn’t realize he’s playing a Beatles song. Eventually, he decides he needs to follow through on Thoreau’s plan to climb Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. This also means something to him outside the reference to Thoreau.
Kids as young as fifth grade can get a lot out of this adventure. It has a few scary moments, but the rewards outweigh the trauma in the end. An excellent guide for discussion and reading activities appears on the publisher’s website (www.albertwhitman.com). This book has already received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and is recommended by The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.