Henry Works

Common Sense Media says

Henry David Thoreau as a bear.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that adult readers will recognize that Henry the bear is a fictionalized version of the famous Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, or, Life in the Woods, and that the bear's experiences reflect those of the 19th century author. Children may not have the historical context, but the appealing artwork and gentle story reproduce Thoreau's world in a way that is easy to grasp. There is a readable map on the end papers to follow Henry's route around Concord.

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What's the story?

Henry the bear is simply walking to work in 19th century Concord, Massachusetts, but a walk with this acute observer is a slow and careful event. To some he appears to be idle. He stops to pick comfrey root, waters some milkweed flowers, collects pine needles, and notices that a fox poses a threat to a friend's chickens.

Along the way, he stops in on neighbors such as Emerson (Ralph Waldo), Mrs. Hawthorne (wife of Nathaniel), and Mrs. Alcott (spouse of Bronson). He helps Emerson with a woodchuck infestation, tells Mrs. Alcott to bring in her drying laundry because it will soon rain, and plants a strawberry plant in Mrs. Hawthorne's garden. This is quite an illustrious set of neighbors, but people are not Henry's focus. He is sharply attuned to the world of plants, trees, and natural phenomena such as the weather. When he arrives at his cabin he begins his work: writing.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This fourth title in a series continues the saga of a most unlikely picture book subject, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), with the same aplomb as its award-winning predecessors. While Thoreau does not appear in an immediately recognizable guise, his quiet containment, clarity of focus, and relationship with the natural world reflect the man perfectly.

D. Johnson's extraordinary Cubist-style artwork and quietly told story reproduce Thoreau's world in a way that is easy to grasp and peaceful enough for bedtime. This is a beautifully rendered tale rich with historical, literary, geographical, and natural history references. Thoreau himself would surely approve of planting the seeds of wisdom in young minds.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Thoreau's life. What kind of insights did he gain from his life in solitude, close to nature? Why would someone choose to live as he did? Do you think it would be possible in today's world?

Book details

Author:D. B. Johnson
Illustrator:D. B. Johnson
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:October 3, 2004
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):3 - 7

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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