The Trouble with Henry: A Tale of Walden Pond

ISBN: 0763618284
ISBN 13: 9780763618285
By: Deborah O'Neal Angela Westengard S.D. Schindler

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Biography Children's Books Childrens Classroom Picture Books Fiction Historical Fiction Picture Books To Enjoy Again To Read Want To Read Again

About this book

Stunning illustrations distinguish this lively fictional portrait of Henry David Thoreau, a man whose simple yet extraordinary vision made history — and reminded us that "heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." Everyone in the bustling town of Concord loves buying grand new things and stylish clothes. Everyone, that is, except Henry David Thoreau. He would rather sit on a pumpkin than a velvet couch. He likes his old breeches patched and his shirts worn and soft. Henry even prefers fresh air and the song of whippoorwills to the hazy breath of smokestacks and the thunder of wagons. But when Henry builds himself a cabin — "not one inch bigger than I need" — near Walden Pond and speaks out against a ghastly plan to destroy his beloved Walden Woods, the town brands him a trouble-some rooster. Can Henry prove once and for all that nature is worth more than sooty factories and fancy parasols? An afterword provides historical details and context.

Reader's Thoughts


I thought that this book was a good way to introduce Henry David Thoreau to a class. I think that this book would be great even to read to a high school class. I think this because high Henry David Thoreau is very dry and boring material (in my opinion and in most high school students would agree with this opinion). Reading high school students this book would make them realize that Henry David Thoreau was just a dude who wanted to be alone and live his life, but was considered what some might call an out-cast. This would have some kids understand him and sympathize with him. I also think that a lot of "organic" students would relate to Thoreau because he lives off the land and wants things to be as small and realistic as possible. If students can relate to Henry David Thoreau then maybe they will be willing to read his poetry because they understand and respect him.

Bryce Wilson

Interesting kids book, can "My First Nietchze" and "Kierkegaard in Kindergarten" be far behind? The art is pleasant, the philosophy is not altered though it is obviously simplified, and I like the idea of exposing people to this stuff when they're young. If you've got a young kid and a bit of subversive streak this will make for the perfect present.

Paul Hankins

A nice extension piece to the reading of Walden. Helps to show older readers that there are--in fact--approaches to Thoreau's seminal work by way of picture books and illustrated texts. This one is based on supposed/inferred reactions from the people of Concord and a suggested intervention that Thoreau may have led in response to the introduction of a possible mill going in near the pond.

Cheryl in CC NV

The author's note reveals that this is only kinda sorta how Thoreau's experience went. I don't care. It's close enough for beginners. The legend is important, and this book is a terrific presentation of it. Evocative prose makes the pictures almost superfluous, but don't skip them as they are bright, crisp, lively, detailed, and funny or beautiful as apt. And of course the political & social commentary is thought-provoking. I'd use this in a classroom for ages 8-15, mentioning only briefly that it is not 100% accurate. (With teens I might combine it with another biography and with Walden, or Life in the Woods.) At home I'm sure we'd have conversations about consumerism, pollution, courage, etc.

Lisa Vegan

This is a superb historical fiction account of Henry David Thoreau's time spent at Walden Pond, and reveals how life was back then and how Thoreau's opinions differed from those of many of his fellow citizens.I'm a huge fan of Thoreau. His book Walden made a huge impression on me when I was a kid and (other than plays by William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and a few others) one of my favorite plays is The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail: a Play in Two Acts.From reading this excellent children's picture book, I can see why Thoreau was so popular in the 1960s, and his concerns are certainly topical in today's world too. What I most like about this book is it shows how someone staying true to themselves and being an activist for what they believe in, can make a difference. It's also a great book for kids who always want that new toy, who want what all their friends have, who want everything in the ads directed at children. But, the messages in this book are given in a way that while not subtle, don't seem didactic either.I love the note at the end, and I'm grateful it explained the fictional nature of part of the plot of this story. (In fact, my only quibble with this book is that part of the story is fictional; this could have made a wonderful non-fiction biography book!) But the gist of Henry's philosophy comes through very well. I love how this 2 page long note at the end gives some information about Thoreau's time that children will understand and be able to relate it to their experience too, and enjoy learning things such as how up to this time in history, toys were made by hand and not by machines. And, I learned what Thoreau's last word was. Priceless. I love it!Despite not liking the fictional part of the story when the true story is equally compelling, I think this is a terrific book. The illustrations are lustrous. They're gorgeous, especially the pictures of the Walden Pond area. They certainly make nature look extremely attractive, just as it looked to Henry. The pond area pictures brought me to practically a meditative state, they're so lovely, and the ones of the town are wonderful too, showing a bustling and busy area. All the people were depicted in such an interesting manner.

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