Henry's Rhymes From Walden Joins Mother Goose in the Children's Nursery
Pictures come alive to the gentle sounds of nature in Henry's Rhymes from Walden, written, illustrated and animated for the iPad by D. B. Johnson, author-illustrator of the award-winning picture book Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton Mifflin, 2000). This multimedia book brings the sound of birds and bees and rustling leaves indoors and adds humor and surprise to its simple animations. “I created Henry's Rhymes to take advantage of the unique qualities of digital media: animation and sound,” Johnson says.
Mindful of his young audience, Johnson intentionally delays the start of each animation. A page turn to a muskrat sitting beside a brook brings the sound of rippling water and birds singing in the distance. The rhyme explains:
I met a muskrat young and wise
A-fishing in the brook.
The water floated slowly past.
His line it had no hook.
I asked him, “Are they biting?”
He told me, “Not a bit.”
I asked what he was fishing for.
“More time,” he said, “to sit.”
After ten seconds, the picture animates: the fishing line begins to swing in the breeze and the muskrat blinks, hardly noticing the fish darting between the rocks in the water at his feet. Perhaps he’s distracted by the butterfly floating past. Johnson calls this “gentle animation”—delayed to give the rhymes “reading space” and delivered in a restful rhythm for bedtime reading. The unhurried pace makes this a book for looking, listening, and lingering. The sounds are real—crickets chirp, a barred owl hoots, a robin sings—and the action matches the whimsy of the rhymes: a sly fox sinks up to his chin in the mud left behind when he sells all the water in his pond. There may be a lesson here, but Johnson has kept it hidden away, as secret as the identity of Mother Nature.