Inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau's Walden, this wonderfully appealing story follows two friends who have very different approaches to life. When the two agree to meet one evening in Fitchburg, which is thirty miles away, Henry decides to walk while his friend plans to work all day to earn the fare for the train. Playful pictures follow the progress of each, whether through a bustling small town or a countryside alive with curiosities for and inquisitive bear. Written and illustrated with stylish simplicity by D. B. Johnson, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg is a welcome introduction to Thoreau. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau's WALDEN, this wonderfully appealing story follows two friends who have very different approaches to life. When the two agree to meet one evening in Fitchburg, which is thirty miles away, each decides to get there in his own way and have surprisingly different days.
D. B. Johnson has been a freelance illustrator for more than twenty years and has done editorial cartoons, comic strips, and conceptual illustrations for magazines and newspapers around the country. Mr. Johnson’s first picture book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, was a New York Times bestseller and a Publishers Weekly bestseller, as well as an American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists.” Henry Hikes to Fitchburg also won numerous awards, including the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Picture Books and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Linda, live in New Hampshire.
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.)
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"A masterpiece . . .The finest illustrations I've seen in years and years and years." —Daniel Pinkwater, NPR Weekend Edition
"An auspicious picture book debut." —Horn Book Horn Book
"This splendid book works on several levels. Johnson’s adaptation of a paragraph taken from Thoreau’s Walden illuminates the contrast between materialistic and naturalistic view of life without ranting or preaching. . . . [The illustrations] demonstrate Johnson’s virtuosic control of his craft" —Booklist, starred review Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
STAR "A nicely realized retelling of a short passage from Henry Thoreau’s Walden." —School Library Journal, starred review School Library Journal, Starred
A Publishers Weekly Flying Start Publishers Weekly