Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

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by P.D. Johnson. Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 2-9.
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Review

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P.D. Johnson has taken a passage from Thoreau's Walden and built an engaging and inventive picture book around it. He tells the story of two bears, one of whom is named Henry and modeled after Henry David Thoreau. Henry challenges his friend to see which of them will get to Fitchburg first. The deal is that Henry will make the twenty-five mile journey on foot while his friend will go by train. However, his friend must first earn the money for train fare, thus leveling the odds.

Henry, a nature lover, takes a leisurely stroll to Fitchburg, enjoying all he sees and hears along the way. His friend works industriously at a variety of jobs for various households around Concord to earn his passage. It's the households that provide the wonderful literary allusions in the book that those unfamiliar with Thoreau will miss but no matter, the story stands on its own. The allusions plus Johnson's inventive illustrations, provide added humor for those who recognize the famous names.

This is a great introduction to the philosphy of Thoreau and to questions of values, work, money, simplicity and more.

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Related Books

  • cover art The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor. Illustrated by Peter Parnall. (1994, Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0684196530. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr 2-12.
    A young girl insists that her family gather around their homemade table and discuss money. She says they don't have enough. They meet and make a list of their valuables and find that most are not monetary at all. Read More.

  • cover art Henry Builds a Cabin by D. B. Johnson. (2002, Houghton. ISBN 0618132015. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades PreK - 9.
    Our wise bear has now set his sights on building a cabin. His friends complain -- it's too crowded for eating, it's too dark for reading, it's too small for dancing. Then he shows him the spaces outside it where he eats, reads and dances. A rain storm finds him snug in his cabin proclaiming that this is “just the room I wear when it’s raining.”

  • cover art Henry Climbs a Mountain by D. B. Johnson. (2003, Houghton. ISBN 0618269029. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades PreK - 9.
    Again based on the writings of Henry David Thoreau, this time Civil Disobedience, we find the bear Henry off for a hike up a mountain when he is thrown in jail for not paying taxes. He has refused to pay his taxes because his state government supports the owning of slaves by farmers. He draws a mountain on the wall of his cell and enters into the drawing to climb the mountain and help a slave escape to freedom.

  • cover art Henry Works by D. B. Johnson. (2004, Houghton. ISBN 0618420037. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 2 - 9.
    This time we find Henry out for a long walk where he find plenty of ways to be useful to others before returning to his cabin to write about his ramble. While not as strong as the other titles in this series this works well as an addition to reading the others and brings up interesting questions of what we consider "work".

  • cover art Henry’s Night by D. B. Johnson. (2009, Houghton. ISBN 9780547056630. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades PreK - 3.
    Henry can't sleep. Writing in his journal he decides to take a walk out in the woods at night looking for "the one who sings the song of night." This title is the most subdued of the series and a gentle introduction to nature at night.

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