Posted on May 20, 2005 in Fiction

by D.B. Johnson
Houghton Mifflin, 2004

This is the children’s picture book you give to your children, your grandchildren, your husband, your friend, to anyone who wonders what you do all day if you are a full time writer.

Henry is a bear who makes Henry David Thoreau a little more comfy and knowable to little ones. As the opening lines say, “It is a misty, mizzling morning. Henry steps out the door and sniffs the air. It is a perfect day to walk to work.”

Which is just what he does — stopping to chat to neighbors along the way, picking up comfrey root, watering a few wild flowers, fending off friends who want him to come fishing. It takes Henry a good share of the day to “walk to work.”

When he finally arrives, we discover he has simply returned home. For that is where Henry works. After hanging up his hat and coat Henry sits down at his desk, takes up his pen and writes in his journal, “Today I took a walk in the woods…”

Inside the front and back covers is an illustrated map of Concord showing where Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Walcott’s (Louisa May’s family) lived, and where a person would find Walden Pond and Henry’s cabin.

On the last page there is a short educational piece on the life of Thoreau. (I heard on NPR not long ago that his name was really pronounced like the word thorough with the accent on the first syllable!)

Illustrations are geometric and charming. The language is too. Clean and spare it moves the story well. If I didn’t buy it to justify my writing life to others, I think I’d buy it just to read “misty mizzling morning” again…and again.

Check D.B. Johnson’s three other books on Henry! Henry Builds a Cabin, Henry Hikes to Fitchberg and Henry Climbs a Mountain.