Andrew Henry's Meadow Children's Book
Andrew Henry's Meadow book cover
Of all the children's books I remembered as a kid in kindergarten or first grade, the one I can recall vividly is "Andrew Henry's Meadow" by Doris Burns. There are other classics that I've read around this time frame like "Where Wild Thing's Roam" or "The Cat and the Hat". The Andrew Henry's book was the one that inspired to be an inventor and artist at the same time. I am no means an inventor but I do have good technical skills when it comes to computers and software. I am also a decent artist and a really good one if I want to be. My artistic skills are a little rusty since I don't have the need or time to draw anymore but I can be damn good. Like the character in the book, I am a good carpenter.
In the book, the protagonist, a boy named Andrew Henry is a master carpenter. There is no Home Depot, Lowes, or lumber store to be found in the story. The kid just makes everything from scratch with basic hand powered tools. This is all I have to say about the story. I will let you hunt down this book for yourself so you can experience what I have experienced. The story and the character, Andrew is magical. The pen and ink artwork is beautiful and drawn by the author, Doris Burns. The book was written in 1965.
One reason I can recall the book is because I learned how to draw from my Uncle who copied some of the pictures of the book with pen. I was amazed how he drew the images. Unfortunately, my Uncle did not pursue art in his career. It may have been difficult to find steady work as an artist maybe 30 to 40 years ago. So with a wife and three kids, I don't blame him. With three kids myself, it is tough to have a hobby. The kids are the hobby and also works in progress.
My Uncle never actually gave me verbal instructions on what to do. I watched him draw and when he was finished, I kept the piece of paper with the drawing and studied it. Then I tried drawing other pictures from the book myself without any help. There was no tracing paper, no grid by grid copying, or any other copying device used. I copied the picture by eye even though I didn't get the proportions right, I was close. I had already established myself as a good artist in kindergarten and 1st grade because kids wanted me to draw dinosaurs for them. I drew dinosaurs all the time and when "Andrew Henry's Meadow" book came along, I started to draw more people, buildings, and landscapes.
The great thing about Andrew Henry's was the artwork and how I was able to teach myself how to imitate the pen and ink style of Doris Burns. Practicing her style made me a better artist and inspired me to be one. Well, not exactly. I almost pursued a career in Art but that's another story to tell. Engineering was the field I studied and made a profession out of it. Fast forward over 30 years later and the book was forgotten. I did remember holding on to the book because the last thing I remember about it was that the cover was eventually destroyed, some of pages were ripped, and the edges were tattered. Somewhere during the thirty years, the book disappeared forever.
Recently, I decided to locate a copy of the book. I really don't know what triggered my quest to find it. At the time, I didn't even remember the name of the book or the author. I believe my rationale was to let my kids read it so that one day, the book will inspire them to be creative and resourceful in some way, just like the character in the book. Andrew was kind of a quiet rebel and silent leader. These are qualities that I can relate to instantly. This is probably another reason why I remember the contents of the book, if not the title.
Well, I did find the book and I bought more than one copy. It was difficult to find many copies of "Andrew Henry's Meadow" for sale on Amazon. I was able to make purchases of other copies from other sites. Despite the very low quantities available online, the price I paid for the books were not too bad. These used books that I purchased were all in very good condition.
The saddest part in my mission to track down this treasure was the lack of information about the author, Doris Burns. I could not find much information about her. There were many "Doris Burns" to sort through but it was easy to identify by the article if she was the correct one. Bits and pieces of articles on the web indicated that she was still alive. A few years later, a Wikipedia entry was created for her. She's 87 now and there is still not much information about her. At least a recent picture of her on the Wiki page was present. She was holding two books, one of them was "Andrew Henry's Meadow".
What really irked me more was that "Andrew Henry's Meadow" is planned to be a Hollywood movie. The first news about this occurred in 2006. I hope they never make the film. I just want to remember the book the way it is now in print. I was sorely disappointed when some of my favorite books from the "The Chronicles of Nanria" were turned into a live action movie. I have the first three "Harry Potter" books and enjoyed reading them but I did not like the film versions either. If Hollywood producers makes the Andrew Henry movie, they will just ruin the book for me.
There is no information about how to contact the author and artist, Doris Burns. She is still living and I hope that one day I can say thank you for "Andrew Henry's Meadow" to her. If you can track her down and provide evidence that the information is genuine then let me know.
Even if I don't get to thank her, I hope that other people can write more things about her and her works. She deserves more recognition.