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Henry Hikes to Fitchburg Hardcover – March 3, 2000


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Frequently Bought Together

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg + Henry Builds a Cabin + Henry Climbs a Mountain
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 170L (What's this?)
  • Series: Henry
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Library Binding edition (March 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395968674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395968673
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 10.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Henry and his friend agree to go to Fitchburg to see the country, they each choose very different methods of travel, based on their very different approaches to life. This charming little story illustrates through minimal text and fantastically stylized paintings the concepts Henry David Thoreau spent his life trying out. While Henry (the storybook Henry is a bear) collects flowers to press, strolls on stone walls, finds bird nests, and gathers blackberries, his friend toils and sweats to earn enough money for the train fare to Fitchburg.

With subtle nods at Thoreau and his real-life pals Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Henry's friend cleans out Mrs. Thoreau's chicken house, moves the bookcases in Mr. Emerson's study, and pulls weeds in Mr. Hawthorne's garden), D.B. Johnson cleverly introduces young readers to these important historical figures. No moralizing here, just a gentle, humorous look at the different paths each person may choose in life. Johnson chose a passage in Thoreau's Walden (the passage is included in the informative author's note) as inspiration for this delightful picture book, which Thoreau himself would probably be proud to read. (Ages 5 to 8) --Emilie Coulter

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance illustrator Johnson models his striking debut on a passage from Walden, in which Thoreau advocates journeying on foot over buying a ticket to ride. Henry, a brown bear attired in a brick-red duster and wide-brimmed sun hat, is a kinder, gentler fellow than his cantankerous inspiration. His ursine friend, wearing town clothes and conspicuously toting a pocket watch, makes plans to meet him in Fitchburg, a town 30 miles distant. Spreads contrast the pair's respective travel strategies: on the left, Henry's friend does chores for unseen Mrs. Alcott, Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Emerson to earn train fare; right-handed pages picture a leisurely Henry examining flora and fauna, admiring the view and excavating a honey tree as he strides toward his destination. At the end of the summer day, "His friend sat on the train in a tangle of people./ Henry ate his way through a blackberry patch." Johnson inventively demonstrates Thoreau's advice with kaleidoscopic illustrations in variegated colors and gently skewed perspectives that weigh fast-paced urban existence against an unmaterialistic life in the woods. Both bears make it to Fitchburg, but Henry's friend wears a blank stare, in contrast to Henry's bright-eyed, curious gaze. Johnson implies what money can and cannot buy, and encourages slowing down to experience nature. With graceful understatement, he presents some complicated ideas assuredly and accessibly. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

D.B. Johnson, one reviewer has written, "has brought down the curtain on the static picture book for children. With the recent publication of his Mother Nature Rhymes (iPad only for now), [Johnson] has singlehandedly transformed the picture book into a dynamic event. From now on, if it isn't interactive and doesn't have multimedia (animation and audio at least) as an ePub publication, it is just too too old hat. There are picture books aplenty with animation and audio today, but they must run inside dedicated apps which cost thousands of dollars to produce. [Johnson] has created an ePUb-formatted eBook that any writer or illustrator can assemble on their own with no greater cost than the software tools they are already using, plus an understanding of HTML5 and CSS--open-source web programming tools that are easy to learn. Authors can now independently and economically produce finished products and sell them directly to their readers. Mother Nature Rhymes consists of 15 two-page spreads, with an original rhyme on one page and an illustration on the facing page. Gentle sound effects accompany the gentle animations, as birds and butterflies fly between the pages, a robin on a swing is wooed by a red-eyed virago, and other aural and visual treats delight your little ones as you read them to sleep."
D. B. Johnson's most recent print book, Magritte's Marvelous Hat, was inspired by the work of Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte and is filled with Magritte-like word puzzles and impossible pictures that will spark the imagination of both children and adults. The book includes four overlay pages that transform the pictures as the page is turned. In a starred review, School Library Journal says of Magritte's Marvelous Hat..."The artist's fascination with the limits of perception and two-dimensional representation provides mind-boggling images that children will relish. Johnson's additional layer of a hide-and-seek game and the inclusion of his own tricks offer more reasons to look closely. An author's note gives a brief context. Moving back and forth between this book and Magritte's art would be instructive and enjoyable for puzzle enthusiasts of any age. Beckoning, buoyant...brilliant."

D. B. Johnson's goal with each of his picture books is to draw children to the complex ideas in great works of literature and art. His first illustrated children's book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton Mifflin 2000), introduced one of his most endearing characters: Henry the bear. Henry is based on Henry David Thoreau, a nineteenth-century writer and philosopher who advocated a simple way of life, unencumbered by material possessions. Winner of several prestigious awards, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg "works on several levels," according to Booklist. "Johnson's adaptation of a paragraph taken from Thoreau's Walden ... illuminates the contrast between materialistic and naturalistic views of life without ranting or preaching."

In a starred review of the fifth book in his Henry series, Kirkus wrote: "From Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (2000) on, Johnson has surpassed all conventional biographers in presenting Thoreau's philosophy and spirit in ways that will make sense to younger readers." Henry's Night is ..."a great bedtime read, as mysterious and thought-provoking as a zen koan."

In addition to his "Henry" books, Johnson has also created several other characters that have engaged young readers. In Eddie's Kingdom a young artist (inspired by the Quaker folk painter, Edward Hicks) draws a picture he hopes will bring an end to all the arguments he hears from the tenants sharing his apartment building. Another original picture book, Four Legs Bad, Two Legs Good!, takes place on a falling-down farm where Farmer Orvie, a pig, spends too much time napping to keep things in proper order. With simplicity and humor, Johnson adds a lively new chapter to George Orwell's classic, Animal Farm. And his 2010 picture book, Palazzo Inverso, introduced children to the topsy-turvy world of Dutch artist M. C. Escher. With what Booklist lauded as "an undeniably impressive bit of optical trickery," readers turned the book upside-down at the end and read all the way back to the beginning in an endless Escher-loop.

Customer Reviews

Beautifully illustrated and well written.
palomita
The story illustrates a section of Henry David Thoreau's famous "Waldon Pond," in which the philosopher mused about a hypothetical 30-mile race to Fitchburg.
M. Allen Greenbaum
Sometimes you find the rare picture book that's just as beautiful to page through as it is fun to read.
E. R. Bird

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Finn on March 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There's a lot to love in this book by D. B. Johnson. There is the priceless story-lesson concerning two bears traveling to the same destination by widely divergent paths, one enjoying the pleasures of nature along the way while the other works to earn fare to travel by more modern means. There are the beautifully memorable illustrations, one after another, of the bears as they make their way to Fitchburg. And there is the message, to stop and smell the roses, take in a little nature, just walk. Or maybe just sit in the woods and read Thoreau.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Bill Schmidt on March 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book, and the illustrations are glorious. I heard this book reviewed on NPR and had to have it for my granddaughter. I have since ordered more copies for friends with young children. Although the two bears both reach the same destination, you decide which one had the greater life experience - and shame on you if you pick Henry's friend.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alan Lewis on March 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My son enjoys this book as a 14 month old because of the textand fine illustrations. As he gets older, I look forward talking aboutHenry David Thoreau and nature with him. He never seems to tire of this book and, unlike some of his other books, I don't tire reading it to him.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Combining 19th Century transcendental philosophy with post-impressionist art movements is no easy feat--and it's even more astonishing in a children's book--but D. B. Johnson's synthesis is a triumph of imagination and talent.

The story illustrates a section of Henry David Thoreau's famous "Waldon Pond," in which the philosopher mused about a hypothetical 30-mile race to Fitchburg. He would walk there, "because I have learned that the swiftest traveler is he that goes afoot." His competitor could travel by train-but would have to earn the 90-cent fare before he could board. Thoreau concludes that he would not only win, but would have the richer experience: "Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day."

Johnson takes these exact terms and turns it into a race between two bears, Henry (the Thoreau namesake), and his unnamed friend. Already we have an exciting premise for a story, but the first page's relatively traditional illustration gives way to several more unconventional, modern art styles in the succeeding pages. If you're at all a modern art fan, or are just intrigued by it, you'll find these pictures of colored pencil and paint astounding and beautiful. But why did the author/illustrator take this route, when, like Henry's friend, he might have chosen a more predictable style?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in that question itself, the predictable route is the safe one, the utilitarian one, whether for a traveler or for an author wishing to sell books. Like Thoreau, like Frost afterwards, Johnson takes the more unpredictable route, the one offering higher risk and reward.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I checked this book out from the library for my 18 month old. As any parent of a toddler knows, a trip to the library can be both wonderful and harrowing all at the same time. I borrowed this solely based on the eye-catching illustration on the cover as I was too busy chasing my little one to give it a good preview while there. This is now a favorite of the whole family and I will give it as a gift to all expectant moms/friends. It's a beautiful story with an elegantly simple rhythm that is appealing to all. My toddler loved it as much as I did and I'm sure that she will appreciate the finer points of the story, including some simple math, as she matures. The illustrations are stunning too! What a wonderful surprise find!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The simple text and gorgeous graphics are gentle and humorous. Especially great if you studied this time and place in US lit.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is an introduction for young children to the philosophy of simplicity. Johnson has adapted the true story of Henry Thoreau's hike to Fitchburg into a children's tale that kids can understand and cherish. As the book begins, Henry is talking to a friend, and they decide to go to Fitchburg. The friend thinks it would be faster to take the train, but contrary old Henry says it would be faster to walk. Rather than argue their points, the two friends each set off to Fitchburg in their own by their own method. Of course, the friend has to earn money to pay the train fare, so he spends all day doing various odd jobs before taking the night train. Henry, on the other hand, sets off walking, and enjoys the beautiful scenery along the way. They both eventually get to Fitchburg, but they had very different experiences in meeting their goal.
The format of the book, with one side of each page devoted to Henry and the other to his friend, gets children to focus on a constant comparison between the experiences of the two characters. By the end of the book, the children see that there are many ways to reach a goal, and contrary to common practice, sometimes those methods that don't cost money may be preferable- -it all depends on what you value in life. This book would be a great starting point for conversations with children about the choices that they or their families are making. And the pictures are wonderful, too!
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