Henry Cole is a self-taught artist who grew up on a farm in Purcallville, Virginia. He’s always been interested in art and science, and he went to Virginia Tech to study forestry. Henry’s detailed drawings were helped and inspired by the close observation of nature that his educational field called for. He taught elementary level science classes as well as trying other jobs, including magazine illustration. His books are wonderful for teaching student readers lessons of language and life, but they are never heavy handed with their lesson. They always keep the kids very entertained, laughing, and endlessly rewarded. As a former educator, Henry focuses on engaging children in during his school visits to teach them lessons, as in his books.
Big Chickens Go To Town
Illustrated by Henry Cole
Having braved the dangers of a wolf and their own farmyard in previous “Big Chicken” stories, the fearful four find themselves dropped by accident in Town. As they flop, flutter, squawk, jerk, and dance their way across the wide horizontal pages, these big, bug-eyed birds face the perils of the unfamiliar city. Dressed in brilliant colors (one even wears lime-green boots), they encounter terrifying traffic, a sidewalk cafe, a marching band, and hostile city pigeons, all the while following a trail of feed they hope will lead them home. Helakoski’s clever text mimics the chickens’ panic (in response to the band, for example) with words like “Twitching toes twiddled. Flying fingers fiddled. / Gizzards rocked. Eyebrows cocked. / Feet jammed. Chords slammed.” Rhyme, rhythm, and repetition keep the frightened fowl moving along, while Cole’s bold colors and daring black lines evoke feathers, fright, and flight. Exaggeration is the keynote, from the big solid shapes to the dizzy slapstick humor and the marvelous overreacting of the displaced hens. What a relief when they find themselves back in their farmer’s pickup truck, safely on the road to the farm! This witty poultry commedia dell’arte will be great fun for listeners, browsers, and readers both young and adult. As the pooped but plucky chickens declare, “Maybe we can come back again soon.” 2010, Dutton/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 3 to 8. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).
Erica S. Perl
Illustrated by Henry Cole
The unnamed boy who rules this silly, low-word-count, partially rhyming picture book and who runs roughshod over his distracted father spies a chicken at the magazine stand where his father buys a newspaper. So immersed is the child in everything chicken that all the titles he sees, such as “Friends of Hens,” relate comically to fowls. The chicken follows them home, and, bored by his father’s reading his paper, the boy asks the age-old, pestering question, “You know what?” The nonsensical answer is the title of the book. Having gotten his father’s attention, the boy follows this with a series of similar questions, each one of which he answers in rhyme. The reader’s favorite might be “chicken underwear” in response to “You know where?” Father finally loses his patience and makes the boy promise to stop. But he can’t himself from reciting one more round and then a cacophony of “Chicken Butt,” which readers will probably find hilarious. When the boy finally agrees to stop, he asks his father the same question as the first one. Though exasperated and suspicious, the father nevertheless plays along. The boy’s answer is not the expected Chicken Butt, though young readers will be delighted to see both the answer and a monkey being added to the household. The dialogue and the level of humor are just right for this audience. 2009, Abrams Books for Young Readers, $12.95. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson (Children’s Literature).
A Nest for Celeste
Celeste is not a typical mouse. She occupies her time quietly weaving baskets, far beneath the floorboards of Oakley Plantation, until she is bustled out by two agitating rats. She must be careful, however, because a prestigious guest has arrived and she does not want to be seen. Mr. Audubon and his assistant, Joseph, are settling in for the evening. She begins to explore the other parts of the plantation and finally makes herself at home in the toe of Joseph’s boot, until he tries to put it on. When she is discovered, she fears that she will become dinner for this new visitor. Little does she know that he is as lonely and homesick as she is. He recognizes her beauty and the sweet company she could offer, and a new friendship begins. Together they work as a team, each one receiving just what is needed by way of friendship. Numerous adventures begin that center on the beauty of the outside world and the creatures who call it home. Cole creates an endearing story with an emotional, bittersweet ending. His dazzling pencil drawings capture Celeste’s unique and sweet spirit. Readers are sure to enjoy it. 2010, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers, $16.99 Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Summer Whiting (Children’s Literature).
Educational and interactive, Henry Cole’s presentations dazzle audiences of all ages. His clever wit, theatrical expressions and remarkable ability to draw keep students laughing and engaged. Cole encourages students to develop their individual talents, using his own experience, marked by patience and perseverance, as an example.
The mystery behind writing and illustrating your own book unfolds as Cole outlines the process from concept to printing press, using examples of his own work. Cole’s delightful sense of humor and artistic talents inspire and entertain audiences. His performances are a treat!
To learn more about Henry Cole and his publications please visit www.henrycole.net.