About the Holiday
Sometimes life takes a bit of finessing. When you’re stuck between two seemingly opposing positions, it can be hard to know what to do. Do you choose one side over the other, or is there a better way? Today’s holiday promotes the art of negotiation, that delicate “threading the needle” balance that actually does satisfy all sides involved. Many times both sides just want to be heard and understood. Good and open communication can lead to solutions and make everyone feel empowered.
I Am Henry Finch
Written by Alexis Deacon | Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
The finches were a talkative bunch. In the morning the flock traded “good mornings”: “‘Good morning, Aziz Finch!’ ‘Good morning, George Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Tiffy Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Henry Finch!’” In the afternoon, they wished each other “Good afternoon!” Evening brought wishes of “Good evening!” And “at night, they said GOOD NIGHT.” The next day the round robin salutations began again. They were only interrupted when the Beast came.
“Then they would all shout, THE BEAST, THE BEAST! And fly as fast as they could to the top of the nearest tree, where they would sit and shout until the Beast moved on.” It remained this way until one night “a little finch woke up in the dark and quiet. He had a thought, and he heard it. I AM HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He considered this thought as well as many others. He wondered if other finches had thoughts like his. He imagined himself defeating the Beast. “I COULD BE GREAT, thought Henry.”
The next morning the Beast did come. Henry envisioned himself standing atop the vanquished Beast and decided now “was the time for greatness.” Screaming his name, he flew directly at his foe…and was…swallowed. Inside the belly of the Beast, Henry had disparaging thoughts. “YOU ARE A FOOL, HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He regretted becoming the beast’s dinner. His troubled mind raced ahead through what would happen to him in the Beast’s digestion process, and yet he continued to think.
He pondered, “WHO AM I?”and concluded that even if he wasn’t Henry Finch, he was something. “I AM,” he decided, and then he considered the cyclical nature of…well…nature. “IT IS,” he realized. He listened to the grumbling, gurgling sounds inside the Beast. He could even “hear the thoughts of the Beast.” It was on the hunt for any “crawling, swimming, flying, walking” creature it could find to feed his family. Henry had had enough. “NO!” he thought. The Beast heard Henry’s thought, and the next one and the next one that told the Beast that all creatures have families and that from now on the Beast would eat only plants because they “have parts to spare.”
Yes, the Beast determined, “I WILL EAT PLANTS,” and when Henry told the Beast to open his mouth wide, the Beast complied. Out popped Henry much to the surprise and delight of the other finches. Henry told them everything that had happened. When he was finished, a small finch piped up, “I HAVE HAD A THOUGHT. GOOD-BYE, EVERYONE. I WILL COME BACK.” She flew off guided by her vision of landing atop a mountain. One by one, every finch envisioned its own great deed and flew away to achieve it, promising to return. And Henry? Gazing up at them as they disappeared into the sky, “he smiled a finch smile. GREAT! thought Henry.”
Alexis Deacon’s unique tale is sure to raise plenty of giggles and “Oh, no’s!” followed by more giggles and finally cheers as Henry comes to terms with his greatness and, despite his diminutive size, figures out a way to vanquish the Beast. Like René Descartes before him, Henry comes to the conclusion that “I think, therefore I am,” and with pluck and self-confidence decides that his existence warrants attention and respect. Deacon’s inspirational story is perfectly aimed at his young audience who are just beginning to “have thoughts” about who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do. Henry’s wavering and uncertainty are presented with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids, and his final victory is a joy.
Viviane Schwarz could not have hit upon a more ideal way to depict Henry and the other finches than in the red fingerprints that determine their individuality. With only a few changes to his sketched-in features, adorable Henry becomes sweet, fearful, resolute, courageous, and of course thoughtful. The blue Beast with its mold-green tongue dominates the pages when it appears and dwarfs the tiny birds and other creatures it slurps up. When Henry is eaten and slides through the Beast’s digestive system, the pages turn appropriately black until Henry decides that “NO!” he is not going to become dinner today. A two-page spread of the life cycle for birds, insects, snakes, rats, plants, and even the Beast is a beauty.
I Am Henry Finch is a book that stirs emotions and stimulates discussion, and Henry—like another literary Finch who refused to accept the status quo—is a terrific hero to add to any home bookshelf.
Ages 5 – 8
Candlewick, 2016 | ISBN 978-1406365481 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0763678128 (Hardcover, 2015)
You can connect with Alexis Deacon on his blog “A Place to Call Home.”
You’ll find more about Viviane Schwarz, her books, and her Cat and Bag web comic as well as videos, worksheets, and other goodies on her website.
Thread the Needle Day Activity
Think Before You Speak Coloring Page
Everyone can make a difference by taking time to talk to friends or others when problems come up or opinions vary. How do you keep a conversation productive and possitive? Print out this Think Before You Speak Coloring Page to remember the rules of beneficial communication.
Picture Book Review