Downloadable Teacher’s Guide to Henry Books
Activities for Younger Students
Henry David Thoreau held strong beliefs about freedom and justice. He did not believe in obeying authority for its own sake. He wrote, “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.” When he broke a rule he did not feel was right, he was prepared for the consequences. “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison.”
Being in the outdoors meant freedom to Henry. In Henry Climbs a Mountain, when he was put in jail for not paying his taxes, he remembered his experiences and used his imagination to invoke the freedom taken from him. He took out his crayons, and on the wall he drew a hummingbird, a tree, and a path that crossed a river. Before he knew it his shoes were wet. He drew a mountain and climbed it, singing, “The bear goes over the mountain.” The more he remembered, the more he imagined and the more he drew. Soon the whole outside world was with him in his cell.
Have your students create a mural of meaningful things from nature. Cover a wall with drawing paper and allow them to draw one of their own outdoor experiences.
Henry’s drawing was an expression of freedom. In it he met a traveler on the mountain. Who is the traveler? What clues does the author give you? What did the traveler mean when he said he was walking “As far as the star in the North?” Why would Henry give the stranger his shoes? Why do you suppose the traveler didn’t spend the night in town? Henry and the traveler laughed and sang more songs. One of the songs may well have been “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” You can find the lyrics to the song, along with an explanation of the text, at the NASA Quest Educational Web site.
When Henry got out of jail, Sam asked him, “How does it feel to be free?” Henry responded, “It feels like being on top of a very tall mountain.” Discuss this expression as a simile, and the title, Henry Climbs a Mountain, as a metaphor.