Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

Donald B. Johnson, Author, Donald B. Johnson, Illustrator
Donald B. Johnson, Author, Donald B. Johnson, Illustrator Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-395-96867-3
Reviewed on: 03/06/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-6798-7
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-618-73749-9
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-1-4619-0895-1
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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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