I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
I AM HENRY FINCH is the latest picture book from Alexis Deacon Viviane Schwarz, a duo known for creating thoughtful, slightly off-kilter, deep but silly picture books. And thinking about all three of these books in conjunction, A Place to Call Home, Cheese Belongs to You and now I AM HENRY FINCH are all, in some ways, about communal living, or participating in a community, which is an uncommon for picture books.
Henry Finch lived in a great flock of finches that "made such a racket all day long, they really could not hear themselves think." Unfortunately for the finches, sometimes, like when the Beast comes, they need to be able to think, to focus and to act. But this is the way it always was.
Until one night when Henry Finch wakes up in teh quiet of the night. He has a though AND he actually hears it! This is the thought that he has: I AM HENRY FINCH. I THINK. AM I THE FIRST FINCH EVER TO HAVE A THOUGHT?In the silence, Henry hears his thoughts and thinks more thoughts, one of which is, I COULD BE GREAT.
Henry's thoughts lead him to a dark place, literally. When the Beast arrives Henry zooms in for the attack and ends up inside the belly of the Beast where he has more thoughts, many of them dark, which lead to some truly amazing illustrations. Inside the Beast, Henry realizes he can hear the thoughts of the Beast that lead him to empathy and a new thought. Henry Finch returns to the flock and, a transformed finch, he transforms the other finches. I AM HENRY FINCH got me thinking a lot as I read it and, writing about it here, I realize how much more there is to it and how much can be taken away from it. I AM HENRY FINCH is a truly amazing book, even more so because it is a really fun book to read and have read to you.
I have read I AM HENRY FINCH out loud several times now to varying grade levels. I am the librarian at a school where more than 75% of the population is socioeconomically disadvantaged and also English language learners. In many ways, the lives of my students are loud, noisy, and chaotic like the lives of the finches in the flock. At any time the Beast can strike their flock, in the form of job loss, illness, legal issues, mental illness and more. At school, my students are loud and chaotic when in a group and difficult to quiet down - especially on Mondays and after vacations when they have been outside of the disciplined school environment. All of them listened to I AM HENRY FINCH attentively. I hope that they all took away from it what Henry takes from his adventure.
Also by Deacon & Schwarz:
Source: Review Copy