What a picture book!
Read Aloud Dad was floored after reading this one.
After reading this amazing ode to the Rube Goldberg-esque creativity of children, you will stop and wonder...
What if all children's books were as creative and innovative as this one?
Why do we need a massive picture book industry ... if just a few classics like this 50-year old creation are still so perfect?
Andrew Henry's Meadow excellently illustrates the 'Anna Karenina principle' of picture book quality:
Every fabulous picture book is great in its own way; all mediocre picture books are disappointingly alike.
This is a book that will fascinate you a little bit more each time you read it.
Andrew Henry's Meadow is an incredibly simple tale that uplifts the young soul.
Although my twins trust me deeply, I doubt that my would ever believe me that this book was penned by a grown-up.
Yes, it is that good.
Still, it was written and illustrated by an adult named Doris Burn while she lived on Waldron Island, part of the San Juan Archipelago in Washington State.
The beautiful, inspiring and realistic illustrations in this book were created in an incredible setting.
Waldron Island had no electricity, phone lines, running water or stores of any kind! All supplies were shipped in by boat from the mainland, including all the art supplies for Burn's books.
After chopping wood and hauling buckets of water she would sit down in her cabin to write.
Oh yes, she was also a mom to four kids.
Not surprisingly, Doris Burn got her inspiration for Andrew Henry from own of her own sons (Mark) and his antics.
STAND OUT OF MY LIGHTTo be great is to be misunderstood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I know what you are wondering right now.
Who is this Andrew Henry Thatcher?
And what is that boring old meadow doing in the title of the book?
Andrew Henry is an incredibly talented middle child in a five-kid family.
He is not understood by his two older sisters Marian and Martha that kept each other company all the time.
His younger brothers Robert and Ronald were a separate pair too.
Andrew Henry was the odd kid out.
He was always alone, yet he did not mind. Because he liked building things. Yes, Andrew Henry was an inventor!
Andrew Henry's family did not appreciate his talents.
He built his mom a helicopter on the kitchen ceiling, but she made him take it out at once.
He built a real eagle's cage in the living room, much to the annoyance of his father.
He set up a real-life merry-go round by using the sewing machine in Marian and Martha's bedroom. They told him to remove it right away.
Even his younger brothers Ronald and Robert were not amused with an elaborate pulley system that Andrew Henry installed in their bedroom that could close the door, while also fetching the crayon box and lifting the table off the floor.
All the family members wanted Andrew Henry to leave them alone, so one day Andrew Henry just did.
He packed up his tools and his things and he ran away from home.
After reaching a meadow that he deemed perfect for building a new home, Andrew Henry built himself a perfect new home-for-one under a fir tree.
Soon other like-minded kids find Andrew Henry's meadow and they start building a mini-children's paradise.
This is such an unassuming book, that avoids delving into issues of morality and hurt feelings.
Andrew Henry simply does what he does best and he does not whine about his position.
He helps little Alice Burdock to build a tree house, after her family did not show understanding for her hobby.
When little George Turner appears out of the deep woods with his fishing poles and boats, they build a bridge over the creek and then a house on the bridge so that George could be near the water.
Then Andrew Henry helps little Joe Polasky to build a dugout house, followed by a castle with turrets for Jane O'Malley and a teepee/igloo combination for Margot La Porte.
More and more kids arrive and a little children's village is erected in the meadow.
Finally, the parents find the missing children and everything ends in a happy tone.
The children were ready to go home and all kids go back with their parents.
But now things have changed for Andrew Henry at home.
The Thatcher family gives Andrew Henry the creative space he needs and instead of stifling his talent - they encourage it!
Don't stifle the Andrew Henry in your child.
This book is the perfect spark that can start a fire burning in their minds.
That is why this book is so important in our family's collection - it fans the flames of inventiveness.
There is a beautiful story about the time when Alexander the Great visited the renowned Greek philosopher Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher.
Diogenes replied: 'Only stand out of my light.'
Whenever I read aloud Andrew Henry's Meadow, I smile a little smile to myself and I remind myself that as parents we must not forget to allow our kids to grow - at least some of the time - out of our strong light.
Children have a strong light of their own that needs some free space too.
Let them shine the light on you.
Andrew Henry's Meadow is available from bookstores in the US
and around the world:
The Book Depository (free international shipping)