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"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them." — Henry David Thoreau

Young students are forever building castles in the air. Each dream, piece of writing, drawing, and experiment expresses not only what they have seen and experienced, but also what they imagine. Children mix the real with the imagined in equal parts. As their teacher, you encourage their imaginations and help them put those necessary foundations in place. Who better to introduce them to a great American dreamer, philosopher, historical figure, and writer than you? And when better to make that introduction than when the children are young and open?

D. B. Johnson introduces single bits of Henry David Thoreau's philosophy and biography in each of his four picture books about Henry the bear and his friends. With these books and the ideas in this learning guide, you and your students can explore Thoreau's vision in your own classroom.




The Henry Books

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg


Henry Builds a Cabin


Henry Climbs a Mountain


Henry Words



To genuinely appreciate D. B. Johnson's words and pictures, have your children spend more time with the Henry books looking for details. Ask the students to keep a list of discoveries they make while examining the books slowly and deliberately. What surprises do they find? What new insights do they gain? For example:
    • How does D. B. Johnson identify the traveler Henry meets in Henry Climbs a Mountain?
    • How does the author tell us or show us how Henry's friend feels about the jobs he takes in order to earn train fare for his trip to Fitchburg?
    • What might we guess about the clothes in Henry's closet by noticing what he wears in the four books? How does that increase our understanding of his values?
Create a class list of the details your students find. How does the list change their understanding of Thoreau? How does it deepen their appreciation of the Henry books?


About the Author

D. B. Johnson grew up in rural New Hampshire and spent many hours playing in the woods on quiet, rainy days. Even before reading Henry David Thoreau's Walden, he knew that living close to nature was the way to keep his life simple. It helped him remember what was truly important, which is why he still begins each day with a walk in the woods. He lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, with his wife.


Teacher Resources for Henry David Thoreau






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