Thoreau’s Animals Review

From Thoreau’s renowned Journal, a treasury of memorable, funny, and sharply observed accounts of his encounters with the wild and domestic animals of Concord

Many of the most vivid writings in the renowned Journal of Henry David Thoreau concern creatures he came upon when rambling the fields, forests, and wetlands of Concord and nearby communities. A keen and thoughtful observer, he wrote frequently about these animals, always sensitive to their mysteries and deeply appreciative of their beauty and individuality. Whether serenading the perch of Walden Pond with his flute, chasing a loon across the water’s surface, observing a battle between black and red ants, or engaging in a battle of wits with his family’s runaway pig, Thoreau penned his journal entries with the accuracy of a scientist and the deep spirituality of a transcendentalist and mystic. – Goodreads

Thoreau’s Animals Review

So apparently this fellow Thoreau is quite well-known for his journals detailing animal and plant life. I suppose I’ve probably even heard of him at some point. However, it wasn’t until I saw a book called Thoreau’s Animals available on Netgalley with a cute little drawing on the cover that I ever actually took notice of him.

I downloaded Thoreau’s Animals in hopes of seeing lots of pencil drawings of gorgeous animals and tons of details relating to them. Well, there weren’t as many pencil drawings as I’d hoped, and the details on the various animals are scatted throughout. However, I wasn’t disappointed. The collection is organized by the season instead of the year, for Thoreau’s ‘year’ seems to start with the spring. So the opening pages introduce us to his impressions of March and go forth from there. Some entries are around a page long, whereas others are a mere sentence in length.

A while back I remarked that when it came to flowery language in reading material, it almost universally bored me. Thoreau’s Animals proved to be one of the exceptions to this rule. Thoreau’s love for nature makes itself known in every phrase he turns. (Except, perhaps, when he likens ducks to ‘rolling pins with wings’.) The illustrator’s beatific drawings also show the respect and joy in the animals found in nature. He seems like he was a rare man, a gentle soul who strove to know all he could about the world around him. His basic respect for the cycle of life is one that needs replicated more often in today’s society.

My favorite drawing featured in Thoreau’s Animals was a little snapping turtle that looks like it could crawl right off the page. The dignified woodchuck profile is a close second, though. And the well-described encounter with said woodchuck, whilst not really completely believable, was probably my favorite entry into the book.

Overall, Thoreau’s Animals is a nice, calm collection from Thoreau’s Journals that enable the reader to take a step back and remember the beauty and wonder in the natural world around us.

  • Title: Thoreau’s Animals
  • Author: Henry David Thoreau (site)
  • Illustrator: Debby Cotter Caspari
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Pub. Date: March 28th, 2017
  • Pages: 280
  • ISBN13: 9780300223767
  • Source: Received a free copy from Netgalley for review consideration.



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