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Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
by D.B. Johnson
Book Jacket
Horn Book (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780395968673 In this book, inspired by a passage in Walden, Henry and his friend are two bears who want to go to Fitchburg. Henry sets out on foot, and along the way he makes a walking stick, collects wildflowers, and finds a birds' nest. His friend labors until he has earned the money for a train ticket. The message is pure Thoreau: Henry has had by far the more valuable and rewarding journey. Nattily dressed bears inhabit nineteenth-century scenes in the stylized illustrations. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780395968673 K-Gr 4-A nicely realized retelling of a short passage from Henry Thoreau's Walden. Henry and his friend decide to go to Fitchburg, a town 30 miles away. "I'll walk," says Henry, but his friend decides to work for the money for a train ticket and see who gets there first. Each subsequent spread marks their progress: "Henry's friend cleaned out Mrs. Thoreau's chicken house. 10 cents./Henry crossed a swamp and found a bird's nest in the grass. 12 miles to Fitchburg." The friend arrives first, barely. "`The train was faster,' he said." "I know," Henry smiled, "I stopped for blackberries." Johnson makes this philosophical musing accessible to children, who will recognize a structural parallel to "The Tortoise and the Hare." The author quotes Thoreau's original anecdote in his endnote. The two friends are depicted as 19th-century bears in the geometric, warm-toned, pencil-and-paint illustrations. Each picture is solidly composed, and although the perspectives may seem somewhat stiff and distracting up close, they work remarkably better from a short distance. The layout and steady pace, as well, make this suitable for storytime. The somewhat open-ended resolution could allow for classroom debate, and is also simply a good ending to a good story.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788207662 K-Gr 4-This video adaptation of D.B. Johnson's picture book (HM, 2000) is a lighthearted introduction to the Transcendental ideas of Henry David Thoreau. Johnson's book is based upon a passage from Thoreau's Walden in which a friend asks Thoreau why he does not take the train. Thoreau's response, that in taking the train one would spend the greater part of the day working for the ticket money rather than enjoying the trip, is illustrated here by Henry the bear and his friend. Henry spends a leisurely day hiking to Fitchburg, enjoying the scenery and pressing flowers into his book, while his friend spends the day working odd jobs to earn the ticket money. Though his friend does get to Fitchburg first, the message is clear ("I stopped for blackberries," says Henry). The video, narrated by James Naughton, pans the illustrations from the book and uses carefully chosen spot animation to liven up the story. Background music by Jon Carroll differentiates Henry's leisurely journey from the hectic pace of his friend's life. A short biographical segment on Henry David Thoreau concludes the video, offering context and explaining the story's origins. Though targeted to younger children, this would also be a lively addition to classes on Transcendentalism for older students.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780395968673 Ages 4^-8. Henry the bear and his friend decide to visit Fitchburg, a country town some 30 miles away. Henry asserts that walking is the fastest way to get there, but his friend thinks the train is best. They agree to meet in Fitchburg to see which of them is right. As Henry begins his hike, his friend goes off to earn money for the train fare. It won't take long for adults to realize that Henry is no average bear. He's an ursine Henry David Thoreau (and looks the part), engaging in a simple competition to gently expose children to Thoreau's view of life. While his friend fills the woodbox in Mrs. Alcott's kitchen, Henry rock-hops across the Sudbury River. While his friend pulls weeds in Mr. Hawthorne's garden, Henry presses ferns and flowers in a book. And while his friend cleans out Mrs. Thoreau's chicken house, Henry crosses a swamp and finds a bird's nest. While his friend, having finally earned the fare, rides a train bound for Fitchburg, Henry, nearly there, eats his fill in a blackberry patch. Although the commuter does reach Fitchburg ahead of the hiker, Henry smilingly responds with bemused understatement: "I stopped for blackberries." This splendid book works on several levels. Johnson's adaption of a paragraph taken from Thoreau's Walden (set down in an author's note) illuminates the contrast between materialistic and naturalistic views of life without ranting or preaching. His illustrations are breathtakingly rich and filled with lovingly rendered details. The angular, art-deco-influenced spreads are beautifully colored, thoughtfully designed, funny, and interesting, demonstrating Johnson's virtuosic control of his craft. Young children will like the story itself; older ones may be inspired to talk about the period in American history and the still relevant issues Thoreau raised. --Tim Arnold
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780395968673 Freelance illustrator Johnson models his striking debut on a passage from Walden, in which Thoreau advocates journeying on foot over buying a ticket to ride. Henry, a brown bear attired in a brick-red duster and wide-brimmed sun hat, is a kinder, gentler fellow than his cantankerous inspiration. His ursine friend, wearing town clothes and conspicuously toting a pocket watch, makes plans to meet him in Fitchburg, a town 30 miles distant. Spreads contrast the pair's respective travel strategies: on the left, Henry's friend does chores for unseen Mrs. Alcott, Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Emerson to earn train fare; right-handed pages picture a leisurely Henry examining flora and fauna, admiring the view and excavating a honey tree as he strides toward his destination. At the end of the summer day, "His friend sat on the train in a tangle of people./ Henry ate his way through a blackberry patch." Johnson inventively demonstrates Thoreau's advice with kaleidoscopic illustrations in variegated colors and gently skewed perspectives that weigh fast-paced urban existence against an unmaterialistic life in the woods. Both bears make it to Fitchburg, but Henry's friend wears a blank stare, in contrast to Henry's bright-eyed, curious gaze. Johnson implies what money can and cannot buy, and encourages slowing down to experience nature. With graceful understatement, he presents some complicated ideas assuredly and accessibly. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780618737499 In our Best Books citation, PW wrote, "It's hard to imagine making Thoreau's philosophy comprehensible and accessible to young readers, but Johnson pulls it off." Ages 4-8. (Nov.) n (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved