Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book


Rate this book
This Newbery-Honor winning tale introduces Whittington, a roughneck Tom who arrives one day at a barn full of rescued animals and asks for a place there. He spins for the animals—as well as for Ben and Abby, the kids whose grandfather does the rescuing—a yarn about his ancestor, the nameless cat who brought Dick Whittington to the heights of wealth and power in 16th-century England. This is an unforgettable tale about the healing, transcendent power of storytelling, and how learning to read saves one little boy.

208 pages, Paperback

First published July 26, 2005

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alan Armstrong

47 books22 followers
Alan Armstrong started volunteering in a friend's bookshop when he was eight. At 14, he was selling books at Brentano's. As an adult, every so often, he takes to the road in a VW bus named Zora to peddle used books. He is the editor of Forget Not Mee & My Garden, a collection of the letters of Peter Collinson, the 18th-century mercer and amateur botanist. He lives with his wife, Martha, a painter, in Massachusetts.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
625 (24%)
4 stars
743 (29%)
3 stars
775 (30%)
2 stars
268 (10%)
1 star
99 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 366 reviews
Profile Image for Karina.
851 reviews
March 16, 2023
There was something arresting about the way this cat engaged eyes. Most animals won't lock eyes with men. Goats do, and snakes, which is why we associate them with evil. The rest of us look away in shame or embarrassment when someone looks us in the eye. But this was different, this was a stare of recognition, the way you can't take your eyes off someone you're eager to see: you want to embrace them with your eyes. (PG 78)

John Newbery Award- YA- 2005

Overall, it was an okay story. I was actually more interested in the man who is Dick Whittington than the story the author concocted. I don't feel it was a Newbery Award winning book but who am I? Not a judge for the committee, that's for sure. The cat is an interesting addition to Whittington's fame. I enjoyed his part in the storytelling and his genealogy.

Side Note:: It's another set in England in the late 1350s. Winning theme going on here.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 9, 2020

There was a cold wind. It smelled like snow.
Bernie and his wife Marion have a tendency to take in anything that needs a home.

Whether it be a duck, goose, goat or horse...if some poor soul needs a place to be, they will be that place.

Enter Whittington, a cat with a chip on his shoulder and a history that could knock anyone socks off.
His left ear hung down like a loose flap. He wasn't old, but he looked beaten up.
Abby and Ben live with Bernie and Marion and are having a hard time adjusting without their parents - Ben especially.

He just can't settle and focus in school, and is falling evermore behind.

The one thing he does love is spending time at the barn - with the horses, the chickens and, especially, Whittington.

And, despite himself, the cat realizes he cares too. And so...the cat tells a story.
The cat settled himself in his dignity and wrapped his tail tight around.
And that story, changes their lives forever.

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit.

The illustrations were really well done and I enjoyed Armstrong's world.

The talking animals do present a bit of a problem when it comes to meat on the dinner table, but Bernie is clearly the kind of man who saves, rather that eats, his farm animals.

I liked the back-and-forth between Whittington's story and the real events that Ben and Abby deal with - and (quite possibly) my favorite part is that there is not miracle cure.

Ben has troubles reading (dyslexic) and throughout the book, it is a reoccuring problem. I happy he wasn't cured (before you reel back in horror - please continue reading).

So many books rely on that insta-cure that it can be disheartening.

It's so frustrating that so many books jump to that happy ending but doesn't show the struggle, the heartache and the fortitude to get there.

I liked that Ben wasn't "cured" because in real life, there isn't always a cure.

Things can (and often do) get better...but that doesn't mean that people will always be cured. It's incredibly important to show that to kids - that you can have a diagnosis and not be cured and still have happiness.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,862 reviews147 followers
July 20, 2021
An outstanding book that mixed cute animal fantasy and a wonderful family story

Probably it’s a modern retelling of the old English folktale “Dick Whittington and His Cat.

Fun characters and a pleasant storyline.

I recommend for family read alongs.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,680 followers
March 28, 2016
I vaguely remember reading this book when it won the Newbery Honor, and being confused by it. The cat could talk? Or . . . the kids were imagining it? It also plays off the fact that you already know Dick Whittington and his cat, which I had heard of, as in, I knew the name but not why. Kids who love animal stories, though, will like this. And frankly, there are worse Newbery Honor books.
12 reviews
November 13, 2009
With remarkably efficient but evocotive writing, Armstrong uses a clever artifice to tell the stories of two boys who each overcome a difficult challenge with the aid of a rather unusual cat. The first escapes a certain life of servitude in the Middle Ages to find greater fortune. The second, in the present, overcomes his dyslexia to learn to read. In both, personal perseverence, the nobelness of aiding strangers, the importance of family, and joy of storytelling come across easily without feeling too forced. Vivid, insightful descriptions of barnyard life as well as interesting historical and botanical tidbits add life and interest. My only beef is that the animals talk and this is occasionally handled awkwardly, and some ideas are a bit abrupt and ungrounded. It's a Middle Grade novel that won a Newbery though, so I suspect others were not as bothered by these weaknesses. This would be a great book for any child, (or for a parent to read aloud to a child) who is struggling in school.
Profile Image for Razan.
108 reviews2 followers
February 20, 2017
I feel so sorry for the 7&8 students who have to read this book for their English class in the school I work at. An unbelievably boring, uneventful, poorly written novel that has zero suspense. There's no character development, the plot was so boring..it barely had a punch line and the grammar, oh Lord, the grammar...IT DIDN'T EVEN HAVE ANY! The descriptions of stupid things dragged on and on and things that needed more of a description got half a sentence. The history of the book was poorly presented and the fact that the main character is a cat...and not just any cat, but a cat who talks to humans and this human , aka Dick Whittington, is a real historic hero. It just undermined Dick's amazing story and tells the reader that the only reason Dick is historically identified as a hero is because of his cat. Like, are you kidding me?! This book most definitely falls under "will never in a million years recommend to anyone." So happy it's over. I pulled through somehow. Time to read something worth reading. Crooked Kingdom...here I come xD
Profile Image for Dawn (& Ron).
155 reviews28 followers
December 31, 2011
Ron rates it 4 stars and I rated it 4-1/2 stars. Review forthcoming.

Profile Image for Kris.
1,373 reviews179 followers
September 29, 2019
It's a wannabe-Charlotte's Web.

Okay, that's harsh. It does have some merit in its own right.

It's the story of an English boy and his cat in nineteenth-century London, told by a cat, while amidst the setting of animals in a barn in twentieth-century America. Takes place over the course of a year, as barn animals come and go; there's details of human characters too, grandparents and children who live on the farm. A few side characters and one-time events circle around the main story, and add some excitement.

I lost track of the older story sometimes, but generally enjoyed it. I suppose it would be good for city children who wouldn't know the behaviors of these farm animals. It's good at teaching some unique vocab words as well.

Newbery Honor book in 2006.
Profile Image for BookChampions.
1,185 reviews108 followers
October 1, 2011
At times charming and lovely, Whittington is a strangely ambitious tale that tries to weave three--possibly even four--narratives together, and only sometimes hits the mark. The characters are endearing (especially for a cat lover), and most of the storylines are enjoyable. Yet many of the chapters, even some of the best, ended abruptly and transitioned awkwardly. In the end, I'm not sure how powerfully they hold together as a finished work.

All the same, this is a fine book for children, and I would read it again. But I wonder if younger readers would tire from the narrative shifts...I'm not sure if it is too sophisticated. Maybe not.

I was pleased at the end to find out how much of Whittington's story was based on historical fact and real legend. This was definitely a nice touch.
Profile Image for Sharon Huether.
1,502 reviews10 followers
August 29, 2020
One day a cat named Whittington shows up at Bernie's farm and hangs out with the other animals that are much like a real family.

Together they help Ben to learn to read better, so he won't have to repeat his grade in school.

Whittington has quite the story of his former life in England, as a merchant of fine fabrics.

The love of family is an encouragement to young Ben.
Profile Image for Dawn (& Ron).
155 reviews28 followers
April 14, 2012
Anna's ABC&D book club read

Whittington is a dual storyline, a modern story of a homeless, tattered around the edges, smart cat named Whittington, in search of a place to live and the 14th century historical adventure of his name sake, Dick Whittington and his famous cat, whose name has been lost to history.

"Whittington is a person in history. He's in books"

Ron's point of view Telling of Dick Whittington's adventures with his cat is great for children who think history is boring and dusty. The cat leads the way and before they know it history is entertaining without them even realizing it. Once they know it is based on a real person and cat they can look up and learn more about Dick and his cat.

Bernie's barn is filled with a wide of assortment of animals and is ruled over by Lady the duck. Whittington quickly settles into his role as protector of the barn including an hilarious bronco ride with Havey the dog. Bernie's grandchildren, Abby and Ben, enter into this menagerie and become part of the life of Bernie's Barn. One of the many subplots threaded throughout is the difficulties of trying to learn to read and the associated insecurities this can cause. Whit is touched by the similarities between Ben and his original owner. They both had problems with reading and keeping up with the other kids, this made him very determined that Ben would learn how to read. In the meantime we learn how Dick made his way to London and met his cat, how they traveled to so many exotic locations. While Dick's story is exciting it also displays courage, the meaning of friendship and respect which affect all those in Bernie's barn.

Dawn's personal note. Ben's frustrations with trying to read will be very relatable for some readers, whether adult or child, as it was for me. Having to relearn how to read as an adult, after a head injury, gave me a deeper appreciation of reading which endeared me to Ben and his troubles.

"Sometimes the word he read didn't make sense, or it wasn't a real word at all. The marks didn't read for him the way they did for others."

"It was like coming in out of the dark. When I started, it was dark, there were shapes and things but nothing was clear. Then it was clear and I could see. It was like being born

The shifting storylines shouldn't be difficult for most kids to follow but be ready in case they need a little assistance. Alan Armstrong clearly separates the historical story by having "story time" where Whittington the cat tells the life story of Dick Whittington and his cat to the animals of the barn and Abby and Ben. Adults need to be aware that there are some violent scenes between animals, and the realities of life for livestock including what humans do when they outlive their usefulness, which could be difficult for some children. On a personal note, we wish that the message of spaying and neutering had been presented, in the modern storyline, since it is so important for children to understand the consequences.

So many lessons of life are explored, family doesn't always have to be mom, dad and kids but family can be where you find it and that doesn't make it wrong or something to be ashamed of.

"You can't get rid of somebody once he's part of the family. Whatever happens you're responsible. But who could say who belonged in our out of that family?"

The presentation of these lessons of friendship, family, appreciation, forgiveness, perseverance, disappointment, and more are not done in a preachy or pushy manner but with humor, love, understanding, and a lot of heart. It is very clever how Armstrong shows all this through both storylines and how each narrative supports and propels the other.

This is a wonderful read for adults and children or to share, and a must for those who love cats and all animals. We think the best way to sum everything up is this quote, from the point of view of Willy the goat.

"If you don't read, you don't get many adventure stories."

769 reviews8 followers
November 5, 2012
A Newbery Honor book, this title was enjoyable, but not without its flaws. The structure overall was very well done, moving from one time period to another with easy transitions and keeping the pace with both stories. But at the same time, I was not terribly interested in Ben's work with his reading, so those parts of the book always seemed to drag for me, less because the pacing was bad than because of my boredom with the subject matter. A child who's struggling to read? I can't imagine how that's going to turn out!

It bothers me perhaps overmuch to have a few factual errors in the book as well. Whittington talks about rats getting into FitzWarren's potatoes, when potatoes were not available in fourteenth century Europe. Granted, this is the cat's story and so it could be considered a character error, rather than a factual one. But there was also the fact that The Lady did not lay any eggs until the appearance of Gent. Ducks lay eggs regardless of whether there is a male around (males are only needed for fertilized eggs, the same way women get their period every month.) While it wasn't actually said that Gent caused her to lay eggs, it was strongly implied.

The emphasis on rhubarb, which Dick was unable to obtain, and the side note about tofu, also seemed sort of tangential to the main story. What was the purpose of having it there if it just sort of petered out?

Overall I enjoyed the book more than I am making it seem. I can see why it was not the overall winner in that year. The prose, while solidly good, is not particularly polished or exceptional. The characters are well drawn, however, particularly the animal characters. Abby and Ben never seemed like anything other than Generic Kid and Generic Kid With Dyslexia.
Profile Image for Bette.
583 reviews
February 17, 2011
This book is in the tradition of EB White's classic "Charlotte's Web." However, it is not in the same league, despite its Newbery honor award. There are too many stories going on at once. There's the story of the animals in the barn, which isn't much of a story. There's the story of "Dick Whittington & His Cat," told by his descendant, Whittington. And then there's Ben's battle with dyslexia, which seems put in the book to give hope to kids with reading difficulties. I see how Dick Whittington's success story is an inspiration to Ben, but to me the story just didn't hang together. Moreover, there were some illogical aspects to the animal-human relationships. Why some people can talk to and hear the animals and vice versa isn't consistent. The cat in the Dick Whittington story doesn't talk to Dick until 3/4 of the way through the story. Why suddenly? Why doesn't the dog Havey talk to the humans in the current story? I felt that Armstrong didn't think through the fantasy aspects of the story well enough. I'll stick w/ "Charlotte's Web"!
Profile Image for Linda Lipko.
1,904 reviews43 followers
March 2, 2012
Thwack...(The sound of this book as it hits the floor) after my brave, stubborn attempt to like it.

What in the world were the Newbery award panel of judges thinking in nominating this as one of the 2006 honor books? Ok, I concede that I'm not an expert, but geesh, this book is bad, bad, bad.

Unlike so many other Newbery winners, the plot (what plot?) is dull. The writing is trite. And, it is boring beyond belief.

A stray cat, some barnyard animals, including two horses, some rats, a bossy duck and some chickens, unite to help a little boy who has reading difficulties.

Whittington -- the cat -- weaves a yarn about how he obtained his name. Truly, he should have remained sleeping on the window ledge.

Profile Image for Vivian.
2,397 reviews
December 3, 2018
Perhaps this is a "Charlotte's Web wanna-be". Bernie's barn is full of anthropomorphic animals which speak with his two grand children, Abby, age ten and Ben, age eight. All of whom have one kind of difficulty or another. In this world within a world, the narrator cat retells the tale of one of his gggggg...ancestor's owner, the fabled Dick Whittington.

Because the book is comprised of stories within stories it's a little difficult keeping the characters and narrative straight, and (sigh) it never completely came off the page and into my heart.
Profile Image for Jenny.
664 reviews3 followers
July 18, 2021
3.5 The part I enjoyed the most was how Whittington is able to help Ben learn to read by telling the story of his ancestor, who was Dick Whittington's cat.

Not for people who dislike talking-animal stories.
Profile Image for Jill.
411 reviews21 followers
August 21, 2012
The thing I found most entertaining about this book is the random trivia and words of wisdom thrown in that have nothing to do with the plot but are interesting nonetheless. Information about goats, for example: (keeping goats is a pipe dream of mine, incidentally.)

"...they pretty much keep themselves. One book described the goat as a natural emblem of anarchy because it enables a man to live alone. Another said two milk goats can supply most of the food a human being needs, even in the desert."

"Buy a quarter or three quarters, but nothing less and nothing more. By no means ever go halves with any man or you will lose both your friend and your money."

Stopped up and don't have prunes in your cupboard? Try rhubarb! "Rhubarb is cooked into sauces, pies, and jams now. In Dick's time the dried root was imported at great price to relieve constipation because the diet then was mainly meat and bread. Vegetables and salads were not popular. One cure for sluggish bowel was a purge of powdered rhubarb root in honey water."

"Thereafter he had to get to school at nine-thirty to run laps before the reading session. 'Exercise will save you when you feel like exploding,' she said. 'It changes the subject. It's real hard to get mad at yourself after a good sweat.' It worked. Ben didn't blow up again."

Profile Image for Jen.
Author 5 books21 followers
April 4, 2013
Whittington is a 2006 Newbery Honor book, and reading it gave me an insight into the award: it's for books that adults want children to like, not books that children might actually like (ex/Diary of a Wimpy Kid). This does not read like a contemporary book.

Our protagonist Whittington is a tom cat who goes to live in a barn and talks with the other animals. Then the orphaned grandchildren of the farmer nestle in the hay and listen to the cat tell the story of his namesake, Dick Whittington (no hint of "OMG, I can talk to animals"), an English merchant born in the 1350s. So sneaky, making us learn our history! But wait, there's a third thread - one of the children is dyslexic, so the animals try to help him learn. Dick Whittington also had trouble reading - what an inspiration!

There are beautiful turns of phrase and obviously Armstrong did a ton of research, but the book seemed didactic and rather dull, even for this animal lover.

"Talk of moving is like talk about divorce, nobody knows what it will mean except that everything will be different and not better."

Profile Image for Michael Fitzgerald.
Author 2 books54 followers
February 22, 2017
I was expecting a detailed retelling of the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat. That's included in the book, and it's not bad, but I was puzzled by the rest of the book. There are basically two other stories recounted simultaneously. One is a talking animal barnyard story, pretty standard kind of Rabbit Hill fare, except the animals and their humans talk to each other. It could have been used as just a frame for the cat tale, but it isn't, it's much more involved. It has all kinds of lovey dovey nonsense where everyone gets along wonderfully, despite having cats and rats and dogs and chickens and ducks all together. The other additional story is about a boy on that farm and his struggle learning to read in school. That story is simply atrocious and could have been eliminated entirely with only beneficial effect. It's trite and predictable and maudlin. Apparently that's exactly what the morons on that year's Newbery committee go for.
Profile Image for Tulgey Wood.
115 reviews
November 17, 2014
This book has some good messages (it encourages kids to read, to not give up, and to be kind to animals). But it also had some bad ones (a main character smokes and another runs away from home when he's about 10). Other than that it's just ok. There are a few different stories going on, Dick's story, the kids' story, and the animals' story. I thought the kids' story and the animals' story blended together fine. But Dick's story seemed very awkwardly stuck in there. I felt like this book should have been split into two separate short stories, maybe even more than two. There were also some inconsistencies (animals can talk to people sometimes but not others). And some things weren't really wrapped up (for example, we don't learn about Louis and the cat's background even though that seemed like it would be important/interesting).
Profile Image for Lief.
64 reviews
January 24, 2016
Had fun listening to this audio book with the kids. :) The story is well-woven between the narrator telling a tale of barn yard animals and the two children who love them and the tale of a cat's ancestor in medieval England. I love how the author switches back and forth between the two stories because it adds a lot of depth for parents who wish to read to their kids or listen to the audiobook. **I HIGHTLY RECOMMEND LISTENING TO THE AUDIOBOOK** The voice-actor does a splendid job of acting out a gravelly and tough voice of the cat.
Profile Image for Braden Bell.
Author 9 books118 followers
July 7, 2010
This is a book I hope to be able to write some day. It is incredibly sweet--even uplifting--without being treacly or overwrought. It is also extremely well-written. Armstrong's prose is a model of economy and simplicity. It is the kind of writing that seems simple and easy until you try to do it. I really loved this book and am going to put it on my list of books I come back to occasionally for comfort. You really need to read this.
29 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2007
A top-notch children's book. It's a Newbery Honor book. There are several stories being told all at the same time. Whitington is the cat, named after the famous Dick Whitington and his cat. Would make a great gift for any child ages 8 to 12.
113 reviews
October 29, 2014
Whittington is a modern fable in disguise. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Don't let the fact that the story takes place in a barn amongst talking animals disuade the more mature reader. Categorized for 9-12, older kids will be surprised to find it worthwhile as a captivating quick read. This is not the simple child fantasy of Charlotte's Web. The story within the story is adventureous enough to interest not just girls but also BOYS of all ages. (No disrespect intended. Charlottes web is a classic - and I love it as much as anyone. I would put this book mid-way between Charlotte's Web and All Creatures Great and Small for maturity level.) Highly recommend this as a short 'feel good' novel for a rainy afternoon.

A story within a story - the contemporary fiction involves a sister and brother who have lost their mother, live with their grandparents and are dealing with loss and difficulties at school. (Again, don't mistake this to be yet another 'poor orphan', 'troubled child' or 'mean kids' book - it's not about any of that.) However, it is the- somewhat historic - fictional tale told within the story that quickly captures the interest of the reader and requires one to turn the next page and go on to read the next chapter as it joins the life of a historic figure, Richard Wittington with the legend a merchant who makes his fortune through a 'remarkable mouser'. Periodic returns to the contemporary story do not interrupt but rather enhance the legendary tale. Interestingly, the grandfather, is really the main protagonist in the contemporary tory - yet he is experienced apart from the children. The reader grows very fond of him in his love and kindness for all creatures. Likewise, the children become known through their relationship with the animals.

Armstrong weaves together two fables of two very different periods without a missed stitch. With great subtlety, his parallel stories demonstrate the values of - and in - honesty, loyalty, hard work, integrity in general and particularly in business, friendship, teamwork (different abilities work together for common good) and notably - peace making and perseverance. Of course, there is through it all the value of learning, particularly reading - the enjoyment of a good story, the knowledge of a good book.

One thing I liked in particular is that it is a happy book! While there is loss - the reader does not feel the loss directly. (None of the main characters die - but some of their loved ones do and the reader understands how the loss feels to them.) Happy endings. No terrible 'darkness' - such as is often detailed in the treatment and experiences of orphans in medievil times. Realsitic of the conditions - but not direct.

Again - I have to give it 5 stars for five measures:

Writing: Excellent. See above. Ability to put together stories within stories seamlessly. Notably, the ability to write dialogue that is entirely not 'dialogue' but understanding, comunication, relating between characters and with the reader. The anthropomorphism is so subtle as to allow it to be experienced without interruptions of logic and disbelief.

Story: Well told! Difficult to put it down - because the story within the story leaves one hungering for the next installment. The author describes characters and settings naturally and the picture develops over time. Likewise, the reader develops an affection for characters through experience over time as the author reveals. He is exceptional in the personification of the animals is readily absorbed through the natural dialogue. The glaring fact that the main "characters" are talking animals quickly dims. I'm not sure how he does it but one's mind stops interrupting with the message: "Register disbelief - this is an animal talking."
I think it is in this way that the book can be enjoyed by readers older than 9-12. Of course, the text is more complex and written for an older audience than Charlotte's Web - but it is the believability of the animals communication - amongst themselves and with the children - that takes the book out of children's fantasy and into tween/teen fiction.

Genre: Lightly historic fiction, current real-life-challenge fiction - it is two stories in one. The historic details are minimal - just as a setting of one of the stories. The current-life topics are: 1) loss (animals dies, people die - but not major characters - so the reader does not experience grief, rather the reader experiences how the loss is felt by others. Included is a bit about overcoming the death of a parent(s) - both stories feature children being raised by their grandparent(s). 2) learning disabilities - specifically dyslexia.

Beyond Labels: Subtle but exceptional - two main themes: Peace Building and Learning Differences. Additionally, subcontexts of being kind to strangers not for reward but because it is the right thing to do, kids' differences and teasing. 1) Boy overcomes dyslexia through persistance and a great deal of hard work. Author does not gloss over the difficulty, the stigma of 'special help' or of being held back. It is not about 'mean kids' at all. Simply notes the true-to-life atmosphere of a classroom. 2) Peacebuilding and the value that can be found even in one's enemies. You don't have to like them and you don't have to BE like them. You don't have to agree with them to agree to peace with them.

Thought Provoking: No so much as many of the Newberry Medal winners - but certainly enough to think about for the age group. On the other hand, the story is more accessable (some might say appropriate) for the younger reader than some of the similarly categorized 9-12 age group. Yet, this book can hold the interest of older readers. Primarily because, once begun - the 'tale' told within the story has the reader hooked on the next installment. (A bit like Sheherezad.) Also - while the main story is a 'Charlotte's Web' like theme - it is more mature in it's telling. Perhaps middle-ground between James Herriot's stories and E.B. Whites.

Parental Note: There is absolutely nothing to be cautioned - unless one objects to the grandfather's affinity for cigars. Entirely without bad language. No romance. (Main character marries in the end when he is 'grown'.) Values of honesty, integrity etc. themeatic. Can be thoroughly enjoyed by ages 5 and up!
Profile Image for Toryn Cianci.
239 reviews2 followers
September 1, 2021
Similar to Dick King-Smith’s animal stories in a way. About a cat named Whittington, the descendant of the famed Dick Whittington’s cat. This book goes hand-in-hand with the tale of Dick Whittington, which has grown into a fairy tale of sorts. I first heard of it in the Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, but then I saw this book and wondered if it was connected.

Whittington the cat is left outside by his boy’s unloving parents. He finds a “misfit” barn, currently made up of a unattractive Muscovy duck, two retired Arabian racehorses, a very loud rooster, a couple bantams, and multiple rats. The barn is owned by a man named Bernie, who lives with his wife and his two grandchildren, ten-year-old Abby and eight-year-old Ben, whose mother died and father left them. Ben is having a lot trouble reading, but Abby and the animals are to the rescue! They come up with a plan to have reading sessions in the barn after school. But Whittington also tells them the story of Dick Whittington, who started out as a poor boy and ends up as the Lord Mayor of London. An inspiring story about a cat and how he helps his new family at the misfit barn of Bernie.
Profile Image for Maribeth Tomas.
43 reviews2 followers
October 9, 2013
Junior Books Project

Category: Newberry

Source: Newberry Honor (2006)

This book will keep you entertained because of the excitement that goes on within the three stories in the book. The animals interact with humans and can speak to each other and the stories touch on love, adventure, family, trust, and hard work.

The front of the cover has a picture of Whittington, the cat. He's got gray fur with black stripes and his left ear is bent. His eyes are a glowing yellow that makes you believe he's really staring at you. In the background is a brown wooden wall, probably the barn that the rescued animals stay in. The title "Whittington" is typed across the center of the cover in white font and the author, Alan Armstrong's, name is typed across the top of the cover. The back of the cover is a lighter shade of brown with a summary of the story. There are very few pictures in the book. In the beginning of each chapter there is an illustration of Whittington--all in different positions. You can tell it is him because of his distinct bent ear. Within each chapter there are one or two illustrations of what's happening at that point in the story. The media looks as if it is ink and the illustrations are very realistically drawn.

This story has stories within the story. One story is about Whittington and the rescue animals he ends up living with in the barn. Another story is about a boy named Dick Whittington and his cat and the adventures he goes on as he gets older. The third story is about a boy named Ben, whose grandfather owns the barn that the rescued animals live in, and his troubles with reading and how he overcomes his dyslexia.

Setting: The rescued animals live in Northfield in a barn next to a pond. Dick Whittington lives in London and goes on many voyages to find different plants, foods, and spices that you can't find in London. Some of these places are China, Constantinople, and Persia. The stories go back and forth so the setting always changes, but the author does a great job of describing where you're at that you never get lost between the stories. You always know where you're at and what is around you.

Whittington aka Bent Ear- cat that finds the barn and tells the story of Dick Whittington; main character
The Lady aka Muskovy- head duck in charge of the barn
Coraggio- Plymouth Rock rooster
Bernie- farmer that owns the barn and rescues all the animals
Marion- Bernie's wife
Marker-dog lives in the house on hill
Aramis- 24 yr old Arabian racer horse
Li'l Spooker- 28 yr old Arabian racer horse
Ted- cornishman from England who helped Bernie bring horses to the barn in his van
Al- nightman from Texaco that helped Bernie get the horses settled into the barn and brings in Wilhemina
Abby- Bernie's granddaughter, 10 yrs old; helps teach Ben how to read in the barn
Ben- Bernie's grandson, 8 yrs old; has dyslexia and needs help with his reading
Norways- what the rats call themselves
Havey- short for Haveline; named after a motor oil; old watchdog; stays tied up behind texaco; bites too much to stay home
Gregory-the watch crow
Dick Whittington-merchant. Owned a cat that Whittington descended from
Will Patch- land agent's driver; Brings Dick to London
Hugh Fitzwarren- the cloth merchant that took in Dick when he was in London. Member of the Mercers Company
Blackie- black hen that froze in the snow and then was defrosted by her owner, but was too late for her feet. The owner left the bird at the Texaco for Bernie. Became close with Corragio.
Dr. Donald Parker- Ben's principal
William aka Willy aka Wilhelmina- goat Al bought at the auction and brought to the barn
Theo- Wilhelmina's baby goat
Brahms- rooster Al bought at the auction and brought to the barn
Miss O'Brian aka Coach O- Ben's Reading Recovery teacher
Gent- brown and tan duck that had ducklings with the Lady
Mary Green- Sir louis daughter; marries Dick
Sir Louis-owner of cat that Dick buys, owner of the ship, Unicorn.
Mary Green and Fitzwarren (cats)- the kittens that were dropped off at the barn and Whittington took after

There were many characters in the book. The number of rescued barn animals just kept growing as the story went on. When Whittington first got there, the animals were divided, but after telling the story of Dick Whittington, the animals seemed to come together as a family looking after each other and taking care of each other.

An endnote at the end that talks about the real Richard Whittington. His family was wealthy, but he wasn't until he moved to london and worked really hard as a mercer. after his wife and daughter died, he donated a large portion of his riches to charities. he was known as a folk hero because of his generosity. his name got attached to a 13th cent persian folktale which is the story that the cat, whittington, tells in the story. The author also discusses where he got parts of his story from--the fable in chapter 13, the medicines, things about the animals, life in medieval times, things about sugar, ships, and reading.

I really enjoyed this book. It was hard to put down. There were 40+ chapters, but they weren't very long and it was an easy read. Plus, the story is interesting so you wanted to keep going to find out what happens. The fact that there were stories within a story reminded me of the book, "Tales of Despereaux." Dick's life was very interesting. He came from nothing and became very wealthy by hard work and a little help from a feline friend. I was surprised to find out that there is really a Richard Whittington that this story was built around. The endnote describes his life and the many tales that were created based on his life.

You could use this book to talk about different elements of a fiction book--the setting, characters, plot, etc.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 366 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.