Whittington tells the story of a hardened barn cat named Whittington and interlaces his adventures with those of his ancient ancestor from fourteenth-century England. The cat Whittington is named after Dick Whittington, a boy who earned his way in life and became a wealthy merchant in the Middle Ages in Europe. This man’s story is told through the cat Whittington, who lives in a barn on a small acreage with several other animals. Whittington did not always live in the barn; in fact, at the beginning of the story he is a homeless cat. He had been living with a family that had a little boy who loved him; however, when that boy was sent to a special school because of a learning disability, the parents got rid of Whittington. He asks the barn’s matriarch, Lady, a wizened duck, if he may come live with her and her friends in the barn. Lady agrees to let Whittington live in the barn on the condition that he keeps the barn’s population of rats under control. The rats were tormenting the animals and getting away with too much mischief. Whittington is able to keep them under control with his excellent mousing skills. The rats strike a bargain with Whittington and Lady: if Whittington will not kill any of them, they will leave the other animals alone and stop eating the hen’s chicks when they hatch. An alliance is forged, and Whittington fits into life in the barn just fine. His other barn animal friends include Coraggio, a rooster; a flock of hens; Spooker and Aramis, retired racing horses; The Old One, a one-eyed rat who leads the rat clan; Havey, the dog belonging to Bernie, who owns the barn; and various other animals. Near the end of the book, the animals take in two of Whittington’s kittens, Fitzwarren and Mary Green. Whittington eventually brings Mary Warren to his old home to give to his former master as a gift.
As Whittington adjusts to life in the barn, Bernie’s two grandchildren, Abby and Ben, frequently visit the animals. Abby and Ben can understand the animals and know what they say to each other. Ben is struggling in school with his reading; Whittington recognizes his problem as dyslexia because he has the same issues as the boy with whom he used to live. The animals rally around Ben, and with Abby’s help, they teach him patiently, helping him to recognize certain words and phrases. Ben is sent to a specialist who also helps him throughout the school year. He works hard to improve because he does not want to be kept back a year in school. By the end of the book, Ben is...
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