I am not sure how I missed Doris Burn and her magnificent talent when I was growing up, but I did. I have found it now in a reissue of this fabulous classic and so should you.
I went to Wikipedia to do a little research on Doris, because I knew nothing about her and indeed she was quite an exceptional woman. She was born in Oregon to a Forest Service family and spent her life on one of the San Juan Islands off Washington state. She attended several universities before graduating from the University of Washington. She married a WWII veteran and had four children.
Burn worked on her meticulous illustrations in the evenings, in “a small cabin where she spends the day at work after chopping enough wood to keep the fire going through the day, hauling two buckets of water from the pump for washing brushes and pens and brewing ‘a perpetual pot of tea'”. Waldron Island was without electricity, telephone service, running water or merchants. All of her goods and supplies were brought by boat from the mainland.
In 1956, Burn took a portfolio of illustrations to publishers in New York and was encouraged to continue working. Her children remember her working late nights by lantern-light with the fireplace burning down to embers.
Burn’s oldest son, Mark Nathaniel Burn, was the inspiration for her first book, Andrew Henry’s Meadow, the story of a boy who, ignored by his family, builds a retreat for himself in a nearby meadow.
If you are wondering why in the world I included all this information, it is because, knowing this, you will understand why Andrew Henry’s Meadow is SO SPECIAL. She lived his life…in so many ways, while her son may have been her inspiration, Doris was living the life she was writing about.
Andrew Henry is caught. Caught in the middle between two sisters and two brothers. Though they have one another as friends/playmates, he is on his own. He loves to build and invent things, if only his family could get excited about his inventions. But he only gets in their way.
One day, Andrew Henry has had enough and off he goes; into the meadow to forge his own way, where he knows that he will not be underfoot and no one will tell him to dismantle his latest masterpiece. He builds himself a small house and soon he is joined by other children from his neighborhood.
The children are missed…but where are they…pick up your copy of Andrew Henry’s Meadow…you won’t be sorry.