Friday, 26 June 2015

An existentialist bird: I am Henry Finch

I am Henry Finch (2014) Alexis Deacon, ill. Viviane Schwarz, Walker Books, 40pages,
hardback, NZ$24.95
ISBN 978 1 4063 5713 4

This is just what the world has been waiting for – a picture book about an existentialist bird.  The eponymous Henry Finch – charmingly illustrated by Viviane Schwartz as a thumb print with wings, beak and attitude – first appears as a mere chattering finch in a flock of chattering finches.  “They made such a racket all day long, you really could not hear yourself think.” Everything changes on the quiet night when Henry has a thought and hears it. “I am Henry Finch, he thought. I think.”  

 The first finch ever to have a thought, Henry could have been great but unfortunately he is immediately eaten by The Beast, a sharp-toothed finch-eater. Fortunately Henry’s story doesn’t end there.  In the quietness of The Beast’s belly, Henry can hear The Beast’s thoughts as well as his own.  Using his newly discovered power of thought, he is able to achieve his own escape and The Beast’s reformation.  Free once more, Henry converts the entire Finch nation to the inspirations and aspirations that come with thinking. Alexis Deacon has written a joyous little fable of metacognition – thinking about thinking. It’s funny too.

 Trevor Agnew
Note: This review first appeared in Your Weekend magazine on 17th January 2015

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