The Barnes & Noble Review
Thoreau for the kiddie set? Definitely. Author and illustrator D. B. Johnson revives the 19th-century writer's desire to live a simple life with this brilliant picture book starring one determined bear. Henry the bear wants to build a cabin in the woods. As he gathers his materials and begins his project, friends stop by and offer him advice. The small frame of the beams prompts his friend Emerson to observe, "Henry, your cabin looks too small to eat in!" Henry replies, "It's bigger than it looks." He explains that the bean patch behind the cabin shall be his dining room. When his friend Alcott notices it's a bit dark inside the cabin, Henry states that the sunny spot next to the house will be his library. Miss Lydia's remark that there is barely enough room to dance inspires Henry to dance in the curved path to the pond, his "ballroom with a grand stairway." When the cabin is finished, Henry enjoys his dining room and other amenities to the fullest. When a rain shower falls, Henry fits snugly in the walls of his cabin and says, "This is just the room I wear when it's raining!"
Johnson evokes the true sensibility of Thoreau's actions. Enjoying nature and using it's bounties, Henry lives outside of his material world. Young readers will learn that constrictions of the world are only in their minds. Johnson uses colored pencil and paint on paper to illustrate the mighty Henry in the woods. Warm colors and an excellent use of angles and lines allow kids to see Henry's work from various perspectives. Youngsters will love seeing the meditative bear linger around his newly built home, reading in his "library," and eating beans in the "dining" room. The beauty of nature fills every page, from the greenery of the forest to the animals in the woods. Johnson makes every effort to illustrate the joy Henry experiences while living in his cabin.
This creative retelling of one man(bear)'s quest to live in harmony with Mother Earth is sure to inspire young readers to explore and appreciate their very own green ballroom in their own backyard. (Amy Barkat)
This worthy sequel to Henry Hikes to Fitchburg rewards repeat visits and inspires a joyful respect for nature. Johnson again conjures the practical spirit of Thoreau and venerates simple living. Walden's chapter on "Economy," complete with a budgeted list of building materials, generates the tale of Henry, a patient bear outfitted in a broad-brimmed farm hat and an outdoorsman's warm clothes. In early spring, with heaps of snow melting on the forest floor, Henry diagrams his dream house, a one-room cabin. "He borrow[s] an ax and cut[s] down twelve trees," hews the pine logs into thick posts for the cabin's frame, and constructs his walls from the weathered boards and windows of "an old shed." His thrifty ways and careful measurements indicate his conservationist approach, and his steady progress could inspire a present-day building project. When friends like Emerson and Alcott pronounce the cabin "too small," Henry replies, "It's bigger than it looks." He proudly guides them to a vegetable garden ("This will be my dining room") and a winding path to the pond ("This will be the ballroom"). The conclusion finds Henry happily lolling outdoors in his "library," resting his feet on the windowsill; he gets under his roof only when it rains. Johnson's singular illustrations of the changing seasons exhibit the planed surfaces of cubist paintings. Each scene sparkles as if viewed through multifaceted glass, and eagle-eyed readers will spot New England species like jays, kingfishers, foxes and red squirrels darting around the peripheries. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
What makes a house a home? Room to dance? Room to read? Lots of rooms? Henry David Thoreau needed only one small cabin, which he built himself for
PreS-Gr 2-Through striking illustrations and a minimum of words, Johnson, the author/illustrator of Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton, 2000), offers another chapter in the life of nature-lover Henry David Thoreau. Revealing a fine sense of economy, Thoreau (in the form of a bear) builds a cabin with room for only the essentials: a bed, a table, a desk, and three chairs. He purchases used materials to save money and incorporates the outdoors as an extension of his living space: a sunny spot nearby becomes his library and the vegetable garden is his dining room. The remarkable, quirky, and somewhat kaleidoscopic pictures depict the building's progress from drawing plans to finished cabin. The colored-pencil and paint illustrations follow the story line in fascinating detail. The tale's end finds the bear rushing through a summer rain to the shelter of his perfectly sized home. Thoreau's appreciation for nature is highlighted in the depiction of trees, pond, and rolling hills, while a wide array of animals is seen in the background. This early lesson illustrates to youngsters that you don't need much to have everything you need.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In an effective retelling of Henry David Thoreau's cabin-building project, Johnson relates with light-hearted humor how Henry builds a cabin barely big enough for himself. As he builds, he is successively questioned by friends about whether it is large enough to eat in, to read in, and to dance in. Each time he replies, "It's bigger [or brighter] than it looks." Each response incorporates natural surroundings and expands his space since he anticipates eating in his bean patch, reading in a sunny spot beside his cabin, and dancing in the front yard. The rhythm of the story is maintained with construction work intermittently detailed between his friends' visits and queries. In the final scene, Henry barely fits in his cabin as he attempts to shelter himself from the rain. "This is just the house I wear when it's raining." Children will find this moment amusing, though younger, more literal readers may wonder as Henry "wears" his small shelter with his limbs sticking out of the windows and floor. Faceted forms are built of angular shapes and warm, natural colors; multiple perspectives fill the scenes, creating a dynamism that energizes the whole. Those who enjoyed Johnson's Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (2000) will delight in the familiar artistic style and reverence for his inspiration as Johnson again successfully conveys Thoreau's love of nature and his desire to immerse himself in the outdoors. The author quotes Thoreau's anecdote in his endnote and includes details about the building of his cabin that provided shelter for his two-year stay at Walden Pond. Readers will be waiting for more of Henry. (Picture book. 4-8)
"Johnson's singular illustrations of the changing seasons exhibit the planed surfaces of cubist paintings. Each scene sparkles as if viewed through multifaceted glass." Publishers Weekly, Starred
"This novel way of looking at living spaceoutdoors as well as inwill appeal to children's sense of logic, which often defies convention. Well balanced structurally and excellent for reading aloud, the text offers a new outlook as well as a good story." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"Through striking illustrations and a minimum of words...this early lesson illustrates to youngsters that you don't need much to have everything you need." School Library Journal
"Johnson captures Thoreau's rebellious spirit in simple text and lively art." Riverbank Review