"Andrew Henry's Meadow" by Doris Burns is not a new book; in fact, it was originally published in 1965. Yet it's a story whose message is as timely and important now as it was almost 50 years ago.
The cover is bright green and shows the main character, Andrew, looking out at the meadow from his handmade house. He had made the house when his family didn't appreciate his genius inventions. Andrew doesn't mind that his sisters and brothers don't want to play with him. He is perfectly happy building inventions.
But no one else is happy with his inventions. In fact, his parents made him get rid of the clever inventions. So Andrew decides he must build his own house. He travels through a pasture, over a hill and a swamp, through deep woods to a beautiful meadow with a sparkling stream. And that's where he builds his house. He fills it with new inventions.
Andrew is soon joined by Alice, who loves birds. Her father doesn't, so she asks Andrew for a house of her own where she can feed and enjoy watching birds. Next comes George, who wants a house suited for fishing, and Joe, who wants an underground house for his pet mice, mole and rabbits. More and more children arrive with their special talents and soon there are nine houses in the meadow.
Back in town, parents are searching high and low for their missing children. No one knows where they are except for Andrew's dog Sam. Andrew had told Sam to stay home, and the obedient dog did, but finally he grows too lonesome for his friend, Andrew. On the fifth day, he leads the parents to the children's village.
By that time, everyone is happy to see each other. Andrew goes home with his family and his dog. And now his parents give him a place in the basement just for his inventions. And they are always curious to see what he is building.
It can be inferred that the lives of the other children change in just such a positive way, also. Although this book is a simple one and might be easily overlooked by those looking for fancy colorful illustrations, it's a book that is very thoughtful in many ways.
This book can provoke great discussions with children about what they do that their parents don't like. How is living with a family a series of compromises? If they could build their own special home, what would it be like? (A great assignment after reading this book would be to have the students design their "perfect" home and explain why it's perfect for them.)
Further discussion might include how the disappearance of the children changes Andrew's parents. Do the students think the other families change as well? How might they have changed?
This is a timeless story that should be on every teacher's bookshelf.
Please note: This review is based on F & G (folded and gathered) copy provided by the publisher, Philomel Books, for review purposes.
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