“It’s one kid making a difference.”
Henry Cole’s description of his book On Meadowview Street, speaks to his passion for educating children about the environment.
I had the pleasure of meeting the author/illustrator at Longwood Gardens, where he was taking part in a family/community read day. He was kind enough to allow me to interview him while he signed books, greeted fans, and raved about the beauty of the “special, special place” that is Longwood Gardens.
At the moment I introduced myself to Henry, I was intoxicated by the beauty of Longwood’s conservatory and relaxed by the sound of water, flowing from ornate fountains dearly loved by founder Pierre du Pont. In my hands were my copy of On Meadowview Street, as well as two of Henry’s other books: I Took a Walk and Jack’s Garden.
Readers of these three books – and dozens of others Henry has illustrated, written or both – will not be surprised to learn that Henry is a former teacher. After studying forestry at Virginia Tech, he taught science at the Langley School in Northern Virginia for 17 years. The first book that featured his illustrations was Zipping, Zapping, Zooming Bats, published in 1995.
Jack’s Garden, written and illustrated by Henry, also was published in 1995. It features full color art created with colored pencils on papers of different colors. It teaches youngsters everything they need to know about planting a garden – from the names of tools (trowels to pruning shears) to creatures (in various stages of development from larva to full grown) that live in soil.
Henry gives readers the most accurate details in his illustrations of seeds (from miniscule lupine and poppy to larger, more familiar sunflower) and birds’ eggs (from the obvious blue of the robin to the spotted, speckled eggs of the vireo, warbler, and barn swallow).
The book concludes with suggestions for kids who want to start their own gardens — including good advice to visit their local library and county extension office.
In autographing my copy of Jack’s Garden, Henry wrote, “For Elaine, wishing you lots of flowers in your gardens.” I love that!
I Took a Walk
As someone who cherishes time spent walking in fields and forests around my home, I also love that Henry inscribed my copy of I Took a Walk with a very relevant “Happy Trails to You.”
As readers open the folded pages of I Took a Walk, they reveal natural treasures in a variety of illustrated landscapes. Hidden in the cool shade of a green forest, across a clover-covered meadow, along a stream, and at the edge of the pond, are 54 different animals, insects and plants that Henry identifies on the final page of the book.
I really enjoy the interactive aspect of reading I Took a Walk with children and helping them discover the hidden images on the pages.
On Meadowview Street
Henry’s book On Meadowview Street was the star attraction on the day I visited with him at Longwood Gardens. His heroine Caroline moves into a new house on a street that doesn’t quite live up to its name. So, when she finds flowers blooming in her overgrown yard, she decides to create her own nature preserve.
Soon, Caroline has parents and neighbors on board with her ideas for replacing traditional lawns with trees, plants, birdhouses, and water features that attract insects, birds and other wildlife. Like the previous books I mentioned, the book features detailed illustrations that Henry labels with appropriate text to encourage learning.
The story’s ending — “Now there really was a meadow on Meadowview Street … and a home for everyone.” — allows readers of all ages to see how simple acts can make a difference in the future of the planet on which we all live.
Everything we do on Planet Earth makes an impact. That includes our choice of career. Tune in to Working Class: Build & Grow Green to learn more about career opportunities that can positively influence our future.
Thank you, Henry Cole, for sharing stories that encourage kids and adult readers to make a difference by understanding, respecting, and celebrating nature. You make a difference!