About Robin Vaupel 

My Contract with Henry

Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale

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Teaching Activites

My Contract with Henry, Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale

My Contract with Henry (Holiday House, 2003)

Selected for the New York City Library Books for the Teen Age, 2004 and the Lamplighter Awards list for 2006
"Beth Gardner describes her transformation from a student who prefers to be invisible to one who chooses the notoriety that comes with Civil Disobedience. Her catalyst is Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, which Beth’s English class is to use as the basis for a group project on an ‘Experiment in Living.’ She becomes increasingly intrigued with Thoreau’s ideas but says, ‘I wasn’t prepared for the all-out savagery of Pick Your Partners Day." She drifts over to where a few other kids are standing, and as they watch the melee caused by the ‘popular’ kids, they end up together. The four partners build a cabin in idyllic Wayburn Woods and try to experience Thoreau’s philosophy as closely as possible. As they develop innate talents, they grow to appreciate one another’s unique abilities, but at the same time they suffer social problems typical to middle-school students: looks, grades, popularity, family, and status. The author weaves these threads into a multidimensional novel that involves the entire Pine Brook School population as they work together to save Wayburn Woods when it is sold to developers."

School Library Journal

"An excellent introduction to Thoreau and a fine companion to Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain."

Kirkus Reviews

"Crisp and often lyrical."

Publishers Weekly

"This memorable story spotlights the power of great ideas to transform young lives."

Edward T. Sullivan
American Library Assoc.

"Vaupel uses appealing characters to achieve a surprising and believable conclusion that will gently inspire middle and junior high school students to rethink peer group labels."


"Vaupel creates a painfully accurate portrayal of middle-school social dynamics."



Robin at Walden Pond
My Contract with Henry is the adventure I wish I’d had when I first met Henry Thoreau in ninth-grade. My project was not nearly as interesting or ambitious as Beth’s. Students often ask me if I create characters for my novels from real students that I’ve known, and the answer is yes. I’m lucky to have a huge back-log of remarkable young people who have passed through my classroom, though fictional characters end up being amalgams of the real and the imagined with large bits of myself thrown in too.

     Robin Vaupel