Andrew Henry's Meadow

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What a picture book!

Andrew Henry's Meadow book cover

Read Aloud Dad was floored after reading this one.

Another keeper.

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.

Andrew Henry's helicopterStill, 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.


       To be great is to be misunderstood.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson 

page from Andrew Henry's MeadowI 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.

Andrew Henry's elaborate pulley systemHe 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.

Tree house built for Alice Burdock by Andrew Henry
Walls of clay, rocks and poles, a roof of fir boughs and a fine landing field for dragonflies outside a window.

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 creates.

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.
Joe Polasky's dugout house

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 

Amazon USA

and around the world:

The Book Depository (free international shipping)

Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon DE


  1. Love your take-away message here. If we can stand back, and let kids create, they will likely knock our socks off!

  2. Hi BookChook!

    Exactly my point - and you said it perfectly. Kids are naturally creative and if we let them - they will knock our socks off!

    Read Aloud Dad

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  3. If you like this, look for "We're Tired of Living in a House" by Lisl Skopen. Same time period, message and gorgeous illustrations!

  4. Looks fabulous, thanks Leslie! It seems to have a very loyal following of its own.

    I will look for it at the library, thanks so much for sharing the book tip :-)

    Read Aloud Dad

    PS Alas no longer available on Amazon ( - hopefully someone will reissue it!

    Re: Leslie in VA

  5. Enjoying your blog and your posts on Google+! I did most of my reading-aloud when my daughters were small, and decades later, the benefit is still growing. Now they both have students of their own, and the sharing goes on, from generation to generation. I'm just starting to blog, myself, at, and I hope to send readers your way!

  6. Hi R-A-D! I enjoyed this post immensely, and was so moved by the way you wrote about it, drawing from other literature as you went. I"ll definitely have to read this book (I've got an Andrew Henry of my own). Thanks for sharing this post with this month's Carnival of Children's Literature!

  7. HI Julie!

    Thank you so much for your kind words and I am glad that you will read the book for the Andrew Henry in your family :-)

    My kids have started building the most elaborate contraptions on our living room - and although I cannot directly prove that this book was the cause - I am sure that it had a big role to play.

    Several days ago, they built a "trap" by using measuring tapes, a pair of my pants, stacks of books and stacks of puzzles - all connected to the furniture. I simply had to go into the trap "to get caught", it made their day.

    Today they were building a pirate ship when I was leaving home.

    Thanks for accepting my post for the upcoming Carnival of Children's Literature - here is the link for all those want to check the carnival out:

    A big hug from Read Aloud Dad

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  8. Hi Susan!

    Thanks so much for your vote of confidence! Congratulations on your "read-aloud investment" in your daughters! I too hope to be able to emulate your example for as long as possible.

    I love Flying Kites and what made me enjoy it even more than ever - the instructions on how to make a kite and pinwheels on your site! I will try them out! So cool, it never crossed my mind I could make a kite of my own (together with the kids). .

    Loved what you are doing on you blog! Thanks for sharing the link!

    Read Aloud Dad

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  9. I first read Andrew Henry's Meadow about 40 years ago when I was 7 or 8. I loved it. Still have it, too. Read it to my daughter when she was little (She's 16 now.). Now I'm going to have to pull it off the shelf and read it again.

  10. Hi Ken!

    I'm happy to hear that two generations in your family enjoyed this book! And you still saved it :-)

    Maybe it will be a great read-aloud one day for your grandchildren! That will be something, three generations reading out of the same book!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your comment!

    Read Aloud Dad


  11. It's great to have you back and posting regularly again! We love this book in our home; it's a classic.

  12. Thanks Kimberly,

    That is so nice to hear. Its an even greater pleasure to hear from you again!

    Glad you love the book! We'll be in touch more!

    A big hug!

    Read Aloud Dad

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  13. Based on your recommendation, I read this book to my 6 and 9 year-old boys. My 9 year-old in particular is a unique spirit and loves to create and invent. They both LOVED the book and kept wanting to go back to look at the pictures again and again. And my 6 year-old just asked me if he could read that book with his dad, who had been out of town when we first read it. He was disappointed that I had already returned it to the library. I think it has to go on my "purchase" list. :)

    P.S. - I'm also a children's librarian, so it's going into my personal "file" for recommending to others. I have been really enjoying your column since signing up and have been borrowing all the books you have been recommending! :)

  14. Hi Anne!

    Thank you so much for letting me know! I am so happy that your boys enjoyed the book so much, it warms my heart to know that that they connected so well with the book.

    It is perfect for inquisitive and creative boys and girls and it plants little ideas of creativity in their heads. I am especially glad that your 6-year old connected with the book so well that he wanted to share it with his dad!

    Andrew Henry's Meadow has a great message and it is a message that kids carry in their hearts already.

    They know that they are predestined for great things and that talent shines from within!

    I have one admission to make - your comment made my day. Yep, praise from a mom and a children's librarian - in one!

    I simply had to show it to my wife.

    Read Aloud Dad admits... I must be a vain man ;-)

    A big hug!

    Read Aloud Dad

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