Monday, November 21, 2011

AN OLDY BUT GOODY- Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn

First edition ©1965 Doris Burn
Second Edition © 2005 Doris Burn
Andrew Henry Thatcher is the middle child in a family of 5 kids.  He has a singular talent for building and inventing.  Andrew Henry’s family, however, does not delight in his talent, but rather are quite annoyed by it and verbalize their disapproval. There is the helicopter that he builds in the kitchen, the eagle’s cage in the living room, the merry-go-round powered by his sisters’ sewing machine and the list goes on.

One day Andrew Henry, feeling unvalued, decides to run away.  Toting his tools and some supplies, he travels to a meadow far from town in order to build himself a home. There he will be able to invent as he pleases.  Once he arrives at the meadow, that is exactly what Andrew Henry does. (The completed home appears on the book cover).

Not long after his arrival, a girl named Alice Burdock appears with her pet birds. She too feels that her passion is unappreciated by her family and requests that Andrew build her a home. He obliges and builds a home that is perfect for a bird lover. It is a tree house with all types of cool features:  bird baths, feeding stations, birdhouses etc. 
Another boy, George Turner who loves toy boats, arrives and request a house be built. Andrew Henry first builds a bridge over a creek then builds a home for George on the bridge.  The house has docks for his toy boats, built-in fishing poles and a paddle wheel that operates a fan to keep George cool. 
Joe Polasky, another kid, shows up.  He owns mice, rabbits and a mole. Andrew Henry builds him a subterranean home where the entrance is on the roof. The house has rooms and passageways for his pets to scurry through.
More children arrive from the town and Andrew Henry builds each a custom home that fits the particular child’s interest.  Eventually, a village of nine unique houses stand in the meadow.

Now, no one has seen Andrew Henry depart town except his dog Sam.  After a while, the parents realize that their children are missing and begin to panic. They frantically search for four days and nights, without any success. On the fifth morning, the dog Sam, extremely lonely for Andrew Henry, lets out a long mournful wail. He then guides the townspeople through the woods to Andrew Henry’s Meadow. When the parents and children are reunited they all rejoice because they truly missed each other.

From that day forward Andrew Henry’s family takes a keen interest in his hobby and are always eager for him to demonstrate his newest contraptions.

All of the books featured on my blog are loved and requested frequently.  However, if you were to ask my eldest son to name his top 5 books, he will only list books that involve a boy inventing or creating. Since he was 3 years old, he has remained steadfast in his desire to be a builder/inventor.  Not surprisingly, If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen and Andrew Henry’s Meadow are in his favorite 5. My boys love to examine the detailed pen and ink drawings of the houses and point out their favorite features.  Kudos to San Juan Publishing for resurrecting this formerly out-of-print gem so that another generation of young, imaginative and inquisitive kids can be inspired.

Shocking, the Chicago Public Library does not own a copy of Andrew Henry's Meadow. The next time I visit this week I will see how that can be remedied. I would even be willing to purchase a copy myself and donate it to the library. Yes, it is just that wonderful!

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