cover image Henry's Night

Henry's Night

Linda Michelin, D. B. Johnson, , illus. by D.B. Johnson. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-547-05663-0

Johnson and Michelin (Zuzu's Wishing Cake ) collaborate on this ethereal addition to Johnson's Henry series, based on Thoreau's writing. Henry the bear explores the nighttime forest, tracking an elusive whippoorwill and capturing, then freeing, fireflies and tadpoles in a glass jar. Henry begins his evening in a beech tree overlooking a dim town square. As the village bell tolls nine, he eagerly descends: “I stride off into the woods toward the rising moon.... The bird calls me to follow.” Henry's observations appear on gray-green paper scraps, superimposed on luminous images of moonlit fields and woodlands. Although Henry is alone, Johnson's blurred pictures—in fuzzy-edged shades of lichen, periwinkle and purple—convey lush silence without menace. Even when rain drenches Henry and he stumbles (“Brambles grab my hat.... Owl, I ask, am I lost?”), the resourceful bear builds a raft and pushes home through thick fog. The wilderness gives way to a cloudy, golden dreamscape with the North Star as a reference point, implying that Henry never rambled and merely fell asleep in his beech-tree perch. Despite this evasive conclusion, the naturalist's energetic curiosity for flora and fauna remains intact. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)