Monday, April 6, 2009

Henry Returns!

For those of you unfamiliar with D.B. Johnson and the "Henry" series, I'll give you a little background...

Author and artist D.B. Johnson lived a life of adventure growing up in New Hampshire. Johnson started drawing one year after receiving a Walter Foster drawing book from his uncle. While he became known as the "class artist" due to his drawing abilities, Johnson didn't take art very seriously and instead, enjoyed wandering the woods and fields that surrounded the unfinished house his father had built.

In high school, a required reading assignment, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Johnson found a new idol - someone who enjoyed the Earth and nature as much as he did! After rereading the works in college, Johnson discovered the true message that was being portayed. If people weren’t working so hard to buy stuff, he said, they could spend more time doing what they love.
-D.B. Johnson It was this message, coupled with a passage from Thoreau's Walden, that inspired Johnson's writing of the "Henry" series.

Today, D.B. Johnson's latest title, Henry's Night, hits stores and I just so happen to have landed it in my hands! So, I'll be sharing with you my review of that book, as well as the very first in the "Henry" series, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.

Johnson, D.B.
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.
Houghton Mifflin Company.
Guided Reading Level: K

Created from inspiration given by Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Johnson allows readers to take the trip to Fitchburg alongside one of two friends, Henry and "his friend." Henry decides to walk to Fitchburg, despite it being a 30-mile hike. His friend decides to work and earn the ninety cents for bus fare. The challenge? Who can make it to Fitchburg first?

We are left pondering which was the better plan? Henry spent time outside, enjoying nature (something that he enjoyed), occasionally collecting items with sentimental value. His friend spent the day working odd jobs to earn the money for bus fare. What is more important in life? Working hard to earn money to afford the comforts of life? Or spending less time working and more time doing things that interest you and are costless?

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:

Other Books in the "Henry" series:

And... in stores today... Henry's Night!

Johnson, D.B.
Henry's Night.
Houghton Mifflin Company.

In his fifth book in the "Henry" series, Johnson again portrays real-life events in the life of Henry David Thoreau - his moonlit walks through the night woods.

Henry is unable to sleep as the sounds of the village keep him awake - the train whistling, dogs barking, and voices from the rooms below. Henry thinks that if only he could hear the songs of the night birds he might be able to sleep. However, since he's not able to sleep, Henry takes his collecting jar and sets out on a moonlit walk through the woods, passing beech trees, meadows full of fireflies, and swooping birds. As the village clock strikes every hour on the hour, Henry's journey continues as he tries to track down the whippoorwill in hopes that his night song will put Henry to sleep. As morning begins to dawn, readers are likely to be surprised at where the whippoorwill leads Henry!

In reading these two books it is my first experience with both the "Henry" series and D.B. Johnson and let me tell you, I was not disappointed! I'm already looking into getting myself the remaining four titles in the series to add to my own collection, as they are wonderfully written and give children much to consider! This fifth title is also wonderfully written and illustrated and I can see it becoming a huge hit and possibly even a favorite among bedtime stories!

Lesson Plans/Book Activities:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to