Teacher Resources

Study Guide / Field Guide for Middle School – High School Students
Written by Ellen Gaines & BJ McElderry

The Adventures of Elliott Clinton Rat, III:
My Journey on the Merrimack and Concord Rivers


Elliott’s Life in the Woods, its sequel

Today marked an important turning point in my life. I announced to Mama that brother Bew and I would begin our journey. As dreams are the touchstones of our characters, it was time for us to strike out on our own and do this thing that we have planned and hoped for so long.

Elliott’s first entry into his journal portends the adventure that lies ahead for him and his brother. They leave Lowell and navigate the convergence of the Merrimack and Concord rivers in a raft, seeking a place where they hope to embrace a simpler existence. Simplify, simplify, simplify

Elliott’s story is inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a recounting of the journey taken by him and his brother John. In its sequel, Elliott’s Life in the Woods, Elliott has arrived at his destination and joins Henry in his “experiment” of living simply at Walden Pond. No longer on the rivers, Elliott takes up residence by the pond and experiences a year of observing in Nature, ruminating on human existence, and meeting the profound thinkers of the 19th Century, Henry’s friends and philosophical counterparts in the Transcendental Movement. Elliott’s journal, like Henry’s Walden, reflects his emerging understandings about life and how to live, Nature and how to see, and friendship and how to engage in meaningful relationships.


Themes and Topics for an integrated study of these two examples of young adult historical fiction include, but are not limited to, the following:

Henry David Thoreau and Other Transcendentalists

Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden

Nature Studies

Journal Writing and Illustrating in Nature 

Memoir and the American Landscape / “Mentor Text” for Writing Style

 The “Journey” Motif in Literature & Writing

 Historical Fiction and Research

 19th Century American Studies: Transcendentalism & Major Figures in the Movement

 Science and Technological Advancements: The American Industrial Revolution and its Effects
(A study in the growth of commerce & industry in 19th Century New England)


Resources:  Available on the internet are the following reputable sites for information about Henry David Thoreau, his writing, Transcendentalism, and 19th Century history. (This is a selection that can easily be broadened; look for .org/ .edu / university sites.)


Life and Legacy | The Thoreau Society

Henry David Thoreau – The Walden Woods Project

Henry David Thoreau online

Henry David Thoreau – Poet | Academy of American Poets

The [Henry David] Thoreau Reader – EServer

Henry David Thoreau – VCU

Transcendentalism – VCU

Walter Harding


US History – Transcendentalism, An American Philosophy

Stanford – Transcendentalism

Mass Moments – Transcendentalism

UPenn Online Book Store – The Dial

The Gilder Lehrman, Institute of American History – Women and the Early Industrial Revolution in the United States

History of Massachusetts Blog – Industrial Revolution


Other Resources:

Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, Robert D. Richardson

The Days of Henry Thoreau, A Biography, Walter Harding

Eden’s Outcasts, John Matteson

The Daring Ladies of Lowell, Kate Alcott

The Lowell Mill Girls: Life in the Factory, Perspectives on History Series, 2nd Edition


Thoreau Society Publications (Thoreau Society Shop at Walden):

Essays & Journals of Henry David Thoreau (Available on-line & in the Shop at Walden)

The People of Concord; American Intellectuals and Their Timeless Ideas, Paul Brooks

Thoreau at Walden, John Porcellino

Quotable Thoreau, Jeffrey S. Cramer

Meditations of Henry David Thoreau: A Light in the Woods, Chris Highland

Thoreau’s New England, Stephan Gorman

Walden Then and Now, Michael McCurdy

Historical Guide to Henry David Thoreau, William E. Cain

October, or Autumnal Tints, Robert D. Richardson

Reading the Forested Landscape, Tom Wessels

Heaven Is Under Our Feet, Don Henley

Sibley’s Birding Basics, David Allen Sibley

Field Guide to Your Own Backyard, John Hanson Mitchell

Passions for Nature, Rochelle L. Johnson

Peterson Field Guides


Authors of Children’s Literature and Illustration About Thoreau:

Marilynne K. Roach, Down to Earth at Walden and The Mouse and the Song

D.B. Johnson Series of Children’s Illustrated Books

Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki, Louisa May & Mr. Thoreau’s Flute

Editor Steven Schnur and Illustrator Peter Fiore, Henry David’s House

Thomas Locker, Walking with Henry

Cal Armistead, Being Henry (Fiction for Young Adults)

Claiborne Dawes, A Different Drummer, Thoreau and Will’s Independence Day

(and other pamphlets and paperback books for young readers at the Walden Shop)


For Writers:

 Modern American Memoirs, Edited by Annie Dillard and Cort Conley

I Am a Pencil, Sam Swope

You Can Write Children’s Books, Tracey E. Dils

The Writer’s Mentor, Secrets of Success from the World’s Great Writers, Edited by Ian Jackman

Finding Your Writer’s Voice, A Guide to Creative Fiction, Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall


For Teachers:

 Environment, Glenn Adelson, James Engell, Brent Ranalli, K.P. Van Anglen

Approaches to Teaching Thoreau’s Walden and Other Works, Richard J. Schneider