Friday, May 24, 2013

Picturebook Review: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B Johnson

First, I’d like to take this time to introduce this new project of mine. I realize at this point my blog has mostly been dedicated to YA literature, but I recently made the decision to make a weekly picturebook feature. This idea came to me from my sister, who is about to enter into student teaching and is looking for books to fill her future classroom with. I know she’ll be an amazing teacher, but her search for classroom books has sparked my interest in producing the best classroom materials for her.

I find the picturebook to be a unique and fascinating genre. There is so much to explore between the verbal and visual contexts. I will take time to discuss different elements of the text and the art as well as include a brief review of the plot.

A note to those with young children in their care (parents, siblings, teachers, and other guardians): You’ve all heard that reading to your child is important. And it is. Very important in my opinion. But I also believe that we should be choosy about which books we introduce to new and young readers. Picturebooks are meant to be fun, cute, playful, moralistic, and instructional. However, some books, simply take one or more of these elements too far. For example, a book about cars with wheels on it probably puts too much playfulness in the book. Children are meant to want to open and read the book, not use it like a matchbox car. That’s why I’ve taken on this project. For those of you who already read to children or who will one day soon. My purpose is to display quality books for you to share with young readers. If you have read one of these books to a child I would love to hear your feedback! I like to read to my niece and nephews, but they’re growing quickly and won’t be reading picturebooks for too long now. 

Picturebook Review: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg 
by D.B Johnson

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2000
Illustrations – colored pencil and paint on paper

Goodreads Description:
Inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," this wonderfully appealing story follows two friends who have very different approaches to life. When the two agree to meet one evening in Fitchburg, which is thirty miles away, each decides to get there in his own way and have surprisingly different days. 

My Review:

This story features Henry David Thoreau as a bear. He and his friend choose different paths to an agreed meeting place. The juxtaposition between the two is paralleled on each page spread; Henry walks and experiences a nature-filled path while his friend chooses to work different labor jobs to earn a train ticket.
It’s an adorable story. The theme of enjoyment and connection with nature is evident on each page, but is in no way pedantic. Henry’s path is filled with adventure and curiosity, and child readers can relate to Henry’s curiosity and appreciate his calm.

The art in this book is phenomenal. Color and line guide the illustrations and tie in the verbal text to the visual. The colors reflect the sunlight on every page. Shadow and Sun are evident in the colors and almost seem to be in some sort of tug-of-war. A vibrant green fills the spaces in each illustration, and the red and blue theme appeals the adventure of the story.

My favorite part of the illustrations is the use of line. The illustrations use line to compare the paths of Henry and his friend. The lines contrast in direction and shape, which convey feelings of leisure or discomfort. Lines surrounding Henry tend to be round while his friend is most often illustrated with slanted and vertical lines to convey the hectic surroundings of city life compared to the peace of nature.
While reading this book, stop to ask the child what he or she sees in the illustrations. Point out color and line and see what they can interpret. There are so many unique details in the illustrations, such as Henry’s friend’s pocket watch. This is definitely a book to read multiple times. Honestly, this a good story for adults to read with children because I’m sure many parents and guardians would enjoy this book just as much as the child. 

I would give this book 4 out of 5 foxes

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Template by In Between Design Studio