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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Henry's Night, written by D. B. Johnson and Linda Michelin and illustrated by D. B Johnson. Houghton, T Allen. 2009. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"I capture fireflies.
They fill my jar
with light.

A bird swoops
low to my lantern,
and I ask -
Are you the one who sings
the song of night?"

This is Don Johnson's latest picture book written as a tribute to the life and teachings of Henry David Thoreau. His insight and inspiration came from a passage in Walden: "Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves."

It has the appearance of a bedtime story...showing Henry as he listessly seeks sleep, while the sounds of the village surround him and disturb his peace. There is only one sound he wants to hear...the song of the night bird. He knows he will not hear the bird while still in the village, so off he goes to find solace and solitude in nature. He gathers fireflies in his jar as he walks along, always alert to the sounds that envelop him. It is after ten o'clock when he hears the song he has been seeking...the song of the night.

As he follows the lure of the whippoorwill, he is one with the creatures of the woods, always asking their advice and listening for their answers. He plods on, sure that his search will be fruitful. After much walking and a concern for being lost, he floats a raft down an unknown river and the bird finds him, perching atop his hat and accompanying him for the rest of his journey.

Each journal entry is placed on gossamer pages of infused light. The charming and delicate verses share space with detailed small sketches of the discoveries made on his trek through the woods. The double-page spreads are filled with delicate lines and images that inspire feelings of peace and contentment, and sleepy delight. The song of the night bird will long be his companion!

This is a magical addition to D. B. Johnson's previous four books that bring Thoreau's ideas to a young audience.

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