Originally published in 1962, Henri’s Walk To Paris has been re-released in a new hardcover addition, bringing back a story that has been remembered for half a century. With stark illustrations that are different from any you may have seen before and interesting text, Henri’s Walk To Paris will intrigue all who read it.
What Is ‘Henri’s Walk to Paris’ About?
Henri is a little boy who lives in a small town in France. What he wants more than anything is to visit Paris, a city bustling with life, a place that he thinks adventures lie around every corner- very much unlike his own plain hometown. One day, Henri decides that he will go to Paris. So he packs up a lunch and heads out towards what he imagines to be the most fantastic place in the whole world. But nobody can walk forever, and eventually Henri needs to take a break, whereupon a bizarre twist of fate alters the outcome of his journey in a way he never imagined.
What Are The Illustrations Like?
The illustrator of this lovely book is none other than Saul Bass (1920-1962) a widely celebrated American graphic designer and filmmaker. He’s designed famous logos such as AT&T and Quaker Oats, to name just a couple, and has worked with some of Hollywood’s greatest film makers of all time including Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese. Henri’s Walk to Paris is his only children’s book, but he has done just this one brilliantly.
That is, of course, a matter of opinion. It took me awhile to get used to the pictures, but slowly they grew on me on and I really began to appreciate them. It is entirely possible that there are those out there who will not enjoy them. Children, I think, will go one of two ways. Either they will dislike them, or they will be fascinated. Chances are, if they dislike them, by the end of the story they will have changed their minds. Saul Bass does not draw characters in the book; rather he chooses to depict them with words and very minimal illustration. For example, the baker consists of a bakers hat, shoes, and words that introduce him as “Monsieur Manager the Baker” sandwiched in between. It is as though Bass is making a statement, letting us know that we know what these people look like, even if they aren’t set right before our eyes. Again, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but eventually it came to captivate me.
Then there is the matter of ‘multiples.’ When Henri talks about how there is only one bus in his little town of Reboul, Bass shows only one lonely little bus against a backdrop of solid bold color. When Henri talks about how there are many buses in Paris, there is a page literally filled with buses. This goes for churches, cars, and even animals.
The text itself is arranged in a whimsical way, the words tilting this way or that to enhance each scene. The color scheme throughout the book is stark, but enchanting. The colors are bold, the lines are clean, and everything is of a sort of matte finish. The pictures are truly wonderful. Hard to describe, but in this case, that is a very good thing.
What About The Author?
Leonore Klein was a former librarian who wrote several children’s books in the ‘60s and ‘70s. At first, his writing had me taken aback. It was…different. But, much like the illustrations, it grew on me. It all fell into place for the story, for the pictures, for the entire book, his writing really worked. There’s something about it that gives you a very distinctive feeling of the characters existence, something in the words and their pattern and rhythm that really bring Henri and his little town to life. It’s like reading the story of a real place with real people, only in a slightly more abstract reality.
What Can Children Take Away From It?
The lesson in the end of the book is an important one. Often times, we don’t appreciate the things that are right in front of us. We miss out on enjoying parts of our lives because we’re too busy wishing we were somewhere else, even when where we are is perfectly wonderful. Henri’s journey shows us that absence can bring to light what we didn’t see before, that where you are can be just as good as where you want to be. It is the equation to living a contented life. Children these days want so much, it is important for them to appreciate what they have, and in a very subtle way, Henri’s Walk To Paris teaches them just that.
Overall Feeling of ‘Henri’s Walk to Paris’?
It was certainly an interesting tale, and one that I would certainly recommend if you approach it with an open mind. It can stir up the imagination, hold your attention in way that is unlike any other children’s book I have read so far, and most importantly, we can learn a great lesson-without having to try and walk to Paris.