Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

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