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.
Picturebook Review: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
by D.B Johnson
Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2000
Illustrations – colored pencil and paint on paper
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