Meet Authors & Illustrators

Q&A with Kevin Henkes

Q: Elizabeth Ward, the Washington Post reviewer for young readers, says in her review of Kitten's First Full Moon: "Henkes's black and white drawings (the colors of night, moon, and milk) have an Asian subtlety and simplicity..." What do you think of this comment?
A:
Oh, how nice. My goal was to get everything down to the barest bones.

Q: This book has been described as having an old-fashioned look, but a very modern use of art. Can you comment on this observation?
A:
I've always wanted to do a black and white book and it just seemed right for the text. Everyone is so used to color, and glitz, and all the bells and whistles in picture books today and I wanted to show that black and white can be just as full and rich. We decided to print it in four colors because that helped to make it rich and velvety. The paper also makes it a complete package. It wouldn't have been right on slick, white paper. Lilly works on slick paper-it's bright and crisp-but this needed something different.

Q: You talk about always wanting to do a black and white picture book, but this art seems reminiscent of something begun in Grandpa and Bo; not only because of the palette, but also in terms of the roundness and softness of the images.
A:
That's true, but I had forgotten all about it. Everything comes full circle, I guess.

Q: So much action is conveyed through the page layout, and the variation in the layout keeps the story and the reader moving forward. How do you make those decisions?
A:
Through trial and error. I wanted to show her movement; even though it's a book for very young children, it's really a journey about leaving home and coming back. I considered using a gatefold for the page where kitten is chasing the moon and when kitten is climbing the tree I considered turning the book to make the tree tall. In the end I decided against both of these. Gatefolds don't always open right, and turning the page would break the rhythm. So I just kept trying different things until I found something that worked.

Q: You talk about being influenced by Clare Turley Newberry and Jean Chalot. Others have compared this book to the work of Wanda Ga'g. Does that surprise you?
A:
I suppose it's the simplicity and the palette that are like Newberry, but these other illustrators [Chalot and Ga'g] used to do lithographs and I wanted that look for Kitten.

Q: You mention that becoming a parent has intensified your attraction to picture books for the very young and increasing your interest in creating books for this age group. Are there other ways your children have influenced or affected your writing and illustrating?
A:
No, they don't really influence my work. But being a parent has helped me be able to compartmentalize my life. Before I was a parent, if I had a little bit of spare time, I would waste it. Now, I can work for just an hour or two. I can use time when I have it.

Q: You have always had the ability to hone in accurately on how children behave and how they feel, in your picture books and your novels. How do you manage that?
A:
The details that seem so right come mysteriously. Sometimes they come quickly and sometimes they come later, after a great deal of work and thought. I like to lose myself in a character-that's the part about the longer books that I love-and the characters become real through the details. The same thing happens in picture books, but it's more concise in the picture books.

Q: Circle Dogs, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, certainly has the simple text and repetition associated with books for very young children. Can you talk about Circle Dogs and Kitten's First Full Moon as part of a progression?
A:
I often write the simple text for a picture book when I'm working on a novel and get stuck. Then, I give them up for others to illustrate, like Circle Dogs and Oh!, another picture book for very young children. And I get back to writing the novels. I wrote Kitten when I was stuck on Olive's Ocean, but I couldn't give Kitten up, I had to illustrate this one myself, even though I love the illustrations for Circle Dogs and Oh!

Q: The text of Kitten has been compared in its simplicity to the writing of Margaret Wise Brown. Is she someone who has influenced you?
A:
I admire her work, but I don't feel influenced by it. The simplicity comes from just working on the book. I like a picture book to have rhythm and repetition and I just keep working until it seems I right. I keep reading it aloud and taking out words. I want everything to matter. There should be nothing extra. Less is more. Writing and drawing simply can make it more powerful.

Q: Everything about Kitten seems so perfect. The double page spread title page really invites you into the book, the end papers and the binding work so well. Did you have input into all of these decisions?
A:
Yes. I love a double page title page and I decided it would work really well for Kitten. I decided I was going to ask for everything I wanted to make the book absolutely perfect, from the paper to the cloth spine. Everything was very carefully considered.

Q: Is it easier to get these desires approved now that you're more established?
A:
No. In the beginning, people were very leery of a black and white book, but it wasn't an arbitrary decision. It stands out from all the other books being published now and it was just right for this book.

Interview conducted by Sharon Grover, Youth Services Collection Specialist, Arlington County Department of Libraries

For more about Kevin Henkes visit his home page.

 

Reviews

All Alone
Kevin Henkes
   Children need time alone--quiet time to explore and to wonder at the world--and sometimes adults may forget how new and surprising that world can be to kids. The little boy in this story spends some time by himself and reflects, realizing that when he is alone he hears more and sees more. He can hear the trees breathe and he can make out shapes in their tangled roots. He basks in the sun and stretches up to taste the sky, but he also thinks about his friends, wondering what they are doing, for he doesn't spend all his days alone. He just wants to live all by himself for a while. The artwork is done in watercolors and colored pencils and each picture appears sealed within glass, the moment captured as a precious memory. The story was originally published over twenty years ago, but today's children may need that sense of quiet, that interlude, more than ever because their days are often scheduled and busy. 2003 (orig. 1981), Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $14.99. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford (Children's Literature)

All Alone
Kevin Henkes
   The best thing about being alone is being able to do and be whatever you want to do and be. The boy in this book likes to imagine himself so big that he can taste the sky or so small that he can hide behind a stone. Most of all, being alone is a time for being quiet and contemplative and this is what Kevin Henkes has captured so well in this small book. With very few words and simple watercolor and pencil drawings he manages to convey how very wonderful being alone can be. So many of us are afraid of being alone and spending quiet time under a tree by ourselves. In fact, there are so many wonderful reasons to spend a little time alone for a while. One can see, hear and feel things so much better when one is alone. The boy in the book says "When I am alone/ I look at myself inside and out." This is perhaps the hardest thing a person can do and yet the author describes it simply, tied in with everything else. It is just one of those things the boy does along with wondering "what my friends are doing." Henkes, perhaps, takes the scary part out of doing scary things. This is a book to treasure and to carry about, to read every so often and to keep handy. 2003, Greenwillow Books, 14.99. Ages 6 up. Reviewer: Marya Jansen-Gruber (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0-06-054115-6

The Birthday Room
Kevin Henkes
   Twelve-year-old Ben is less than thrilled with his birthday present from his parents: a new room to be used as an artist's studio. The best birthday present is an invitation from his Uncle Ian whom Ben has not seen in ten years. Ben pleads with his parents to allow him to visit, and his reticent mother finally agrees to accompany him. The reader discovers along with Ben more details of the circumstances that occurred when Ben lost his pinky in an accident while under Ian's supervision. An accident involving a neighbor child leaves Ben feeling guilty, and his feelings parallel those of his mother and uncle. That Ben has matured through this visit is evident in his decision concerning the "birthday room." The complexities of parent-child relationships and feelings of guilt and self-acceptance are explored in a thought-provoking way. Henkes has an adept understanding of human nature. His literary style, development of theme and Ben's strength of character will reward the sophisticated reader. 1999, Greenwillow Books, $15.00. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature)

The Birthday Room
Kevin Henkes
   This book deals with several issues one boy has and his acceptance and understanding of these issues. The main character, Benjamin Hunter, is 12 and lives in Wisconsin. His parents have a bookstore, and they are both artistic--his mother weaves and his father writes. Ben's parents are trying to encourage him to continue to develop his painting talents. For his birthday, they give him a part of the attic, which has been made ready for an occupant. For the same birthday he receives a letter from his uncle, his mother's estranged brother. His uncle invites him to come to Oregon for a visit, and his mother finally agrees. He discovers the answers to many questions he has never been able to answer. Fiction. 1999, Greenwillow Books, 152p, $15.00. Grades 5-7. Reviewer: Virginia Gleaton (Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 12, No. 2))

The Birthday Room
Kevin Henkes
   Hentges has crafted with precision a story of realism and fantasy which reflects the childishness of adults and the adultness of children. His latest work, The Birthday Room, addresses a family's history of unforgiven events in the context of Ben's twelfth birthday. Ben receives two gifts that year--the Birthday Room and a letter from his uncle from whom Ben hasn't heard in ten years. Ben's parents have created a special room out of the attic where Ben can paint, sacrificing their plans for a reading room. Also, Ben's uncle has invited him to visit Oregon: an all-expense-paid trip to escape the humidity of Wisconsin. Although Ben appreciates his parents' efforts, his favorite present comes from his mother's brother, whom his mother refuses to forgive. The gift of the Birthday Room--which celebrates Ben's ability to paint--glosses over the fact that Ben is missing a finger. Also missing--from the letter--is any reference to Uncle Ian's involvement in causing Ben's loss. Ultimately, Ben and his mother do visit Uncle Ian--resulting in a landmark summer for Ben and one of reconciliation for the whole family. The impending arrival of Ian's first child and Ben's only cousin serves as an impetus to draw the family together in a new cycle of forgiveness, healing, and the creation of new relationships. Of special note is Ben's newfound friend, Lynnie. Their creation of a magical world away from adults rivals those created by Pippi or Christopher Robin. Lynnie's younger siblings, twins Elka and Kale, have endeavored to fashion a huge present for the arrival of the new baby. A large dead tree, decorated with handmade ornaments for the baby, has been preserved in the orchard as a symbol of grandpa's first kiss. Ultimately, this remnant from the past must be cut down--as it causes a terrible accident. The resolution of how to use the shorn branches, appease the twins, and create a lasting bond between Ben's mother and uncle is the stuff magic summer memories are made of. The Birthday Room is a wonderful read for any season and any age. 1999, Greenwillow, 5-1/2 x 8-1/4, 176 pages, $16.00. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Stephanie Koplitz Harty (The Five Owls, September/October 1999 (Vol. 14, No. 1))
ISBN: 0688167330

Best Books:    The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2000; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Capitol Choices, 1999; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 1999; Cahners; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002; California Department of Education; California

State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Maine Student Book Award, 2000-2001; Nominee; Maine
   The Nene Award, 2002; Nominee; Hawaii
   William Allen White Children's Book Award, 2001-2002; Nominee; Kansas
   Young Hoosier Book Award, 2001-2002; Nominee; Indiana

Circle Dogs
Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
   Circle dogs wake up in the morning with a stretch, a yawn and kisses all around. Their play through the day takes on all kinds of shapes. When they're back inside the house there's lots of sniffing, licking and eating until they finally fall asleep. Will they ever wake up? You bet, to run and jump and bounce like balls! Then it's back to sleep again, making this a great bedtime story. Category: Concept. Grade Level: Preschool. 1998, Greenwillow, under 40 pages. Ages 3 to 5. Reviewer: Gayle (BookHive (www.bookhive.org))

Circle Dogs
Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
   Perfect for bedtime reading, this clever book introduces young readers to two circle dogs that live in a big, square house. From beginning to end, this delightful book entertains and teaches important concepts such as colors and shapes. Kevin Henkes uses simple language to describe the daily routines of a family and their two lively dogs. When the alarm clock rings, the pooches wake up, dispense kisses, and run, jump and bounce their way through an exciting day filled with playing, eating and sleeping. Pet-loving families will enjoy this charming picture book. 1998, Greenwillow Books, $15.00. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Debra Briatico (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0688154468

Best Books:    The Best Children's Books of the Year, 1999; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Capitol Choices, 1998; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended 1999 United States

Grandpa and Little Bo
Kevin Henkes
   Little Bo is visiting his grandfather and together they share an idyllic summer. Their joy comes from simple pleasures in which the activity is secondary to the enjoyment of each other's company. Walking in the rain, fishing on the riverbank, observing the night sky, tossing a ball in the yard, and making things together are better when shared. Grandpa and Bo even celebrate a "summer Christmas." Simple prose, quietly delivered, evokes a range of emotion. Soft, neatly framed pencil sketches are reminiscent of a family album filled with sepia-toned photos of happy times. Comforting and reassuring this, is a perfect inter-generational story. 2002 (orig. 1986), Greenwillow, $14.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0066238374

Julius's Candy Corn
Kevin Henkes
   It's Halloween and Julius is having a party. Sitting on the table were homemade cupcakes studded with candy corn. When his mother tells him not to eat the cupcakes, he decides to count the candy corn instead. After one comes "another candy corn" and "another candy corn" until Julius has counted them all. As he counted them, however, he popped each one in his mouth. But the cupcakes are still there when his friends arrives. Henkes continues this holiday series with another delightful, child-centered story. Julius, dressed in his clown costume, is wonderfully expressive as he licks his fingers and his lips. Parents will recognize the literal way young children think. With its board book format and gentle story, this is a treasure for parents and teachers of young children. 2003, Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $6.99. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0060537892

Kitten's First Full Moon
Kevin Henkes
   Kitten ventures outside one evening and discovers a big round bowl full of milk in the sky. She attempts get at the bowl, not realizing that it is the moon, and therefore each attempt ends in failure. At last, when she is bruised, cold and wet, she returns home. What does she find there? Why, a most satisfying bowl of milk. Henkes is a master of language. The brief text has been honed to perfection. The black and white illustrations have a softness to them and while they are reminiscent of those of Clare Turlay Newberry (April's Kittens and Marshmallow), they are fresh, vibrant and unique. Preschoolers will identify with Henkes' active and inquisitive little kitten as she moves through the outdoors. They will pore over the series of smaller drawings showing her changing from wet and bedraggled back to dry and fluffy. Inviting illustrations, a curious kitten, just the right amount of suspense, the drama of a full moon, and a heartwarming ending combine to make this story one that will be popular for years to come. BIBLIO: 2004, Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins, Ages 3 to 5, $15.99.
Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo Format: Picture Book (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0-06-058828-4

Olive's Ocean
Kevin Henkes
   Martha is bothered by the death of a girl, Olive, whom she barely knew. In this story that takes place in about a week, she manages to remember Olive in a way that will let her go on. Martha is also betrayed by a boy into a first kiss, which she parlays into even more strength. Martha is so memorable, as are the other characters in the story--Henkes is a master at creating people we know engaged in the business of growing up, in all the shaggy wonder that implies. I think middle school girls will like not being talked down to in Olive's Ocean. They will like the way Martha begins to see boys and first loves, how she deals with the realization that her grandmother is probably sicker than she is letting on, how she observes the way adults and parents lose their tempers and patch things up, and the way she begins to figure what life might be all about--to her. A superior growing up/coming-of-age story. 2003, Greenwillow, $15.99. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0060535431
Best Books:
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, July 2002; Cahners; United States

Owen
Kevin Henkes
   Beginning school for the first time can be scary. Young readers can help a brother or sister by telling them what school is like and what to expect. They can also read Henkes' book to them. Owen is a mouse who's afraid to face kindergarten without his fuzzy blanket. A nosy, pushy neighbor tries to get Owen's parents to do all kinds of horrible things until finally, Owen's mother comes up with "an absolutely wonderful, positively perfect, especially terrific" solution to the problem. The only thing better than this book would be having a big sister or big brother willing to share lots of school experiences and good ideas. 1993, Greenwillow, $15.00 and $13.93. Ages 4 to 6. Reviewer: Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)

Owen
Kevin Henkes
   Owen, a young mouse, has a yellow blanket that goes everywhere with him. Try as they might, his parents are unsuccessful at separating Owen and his blanket. Ideas suggested by the neighbor Mrs. Tweezers are also unsuccessful. Finally, a solution is found and everyone is happy at the outcome. This is a very enjoyable book for any child, and might be helpful for a child who is very attached to "something special." Well written, with humorous illustrations. 1993, Greenwillow Books, $14.00. Ages 3 mo. to 5. Reviewer: M. Thomas (Parent Council Volume 1)
ISBN:0688114490
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Lasting Connections, 1993; American Library Association; United States
   Notable Books for Children, 1993; American Library Association-ALSC; United States
   Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1994; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002; California Department of Education; California
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 1993; Cahners; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 1994 Picture Books United States
   Randolph Caldecott Medal Honor Book 1994 United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   California Young Reader Medal, 1997; Nominee; California
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 1996; Nominee; Utah

Owen's Marshmallow Chick
Kevin Henkes
   Here is the perfect Easter basket treat: a copy of a great board book and a five-inch finger puppet of Owen. Owen discovers the usual candies in his Easter basket. There are jellybeans, gumdrops, butter cream eggs, a chocolate bunny and a little marshmallow chick. With each, Owen pronounces it "My favorite" and then eats it up. That is, until he comes to the marshmallow chick. He plays with it all day, places it on his toy shelf at night. What does he dream of? A yellow marshmallow chick, of course. Henkes takes the ordinary and creates the extraordinary through words and emotion-filled illustrations. We see Owen's delight as he jumps for joy at the sight of his basket and savors the flavors as he eats the candy. Each page of text has a different pastel color background, bringing to mind happy thoughts of Spring. Children and adults will relate to Owen. Long after the candy is gone and the saved yellow marshmallow chick has hardened, both will continue to enjoy this delectable morsel. 2003 (orig. 2002), HarperCollins, $10.99. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0060527692

Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick
Kevin Henkes
   This board book will probably bring back memories to most adults and will delight young kids. Sheila Rae has one peppermint stick. It is striped and thin and delicious. Her younger sister Louise wants its. Shelia Rae teases Louise and finally gets her comeuppance when she falls and the stick breaks in half. At which point Louise points out that there are now two and as Sheila Rae had said earlier, if she had two she would certainly share. Not to be outdone Sheila Rae hugs her sister and says she planned to share it all along. The pictures and expressions are wonderful and it's great to see sibling rivalry turn to sweet solidarity. 2001 (orig. 1993), $6.95. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0060294515
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Capitol Choices, 2001; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Book Sense 76 Picks, Winter 2001; Book Sense 76; United States
   Notable Books for Children, 2002; American Library Association-ALSC; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, December 2001; Cahners; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 2002 Babies and Toddlers United States

Sun & Spoon
Kevin Henkes
   Oftentimes when we lose someone close to us we want to keep something of theirs as a reminder of him or her in our lives. Spoon Gilmore's Gram died two months ago and he is searching for that something special he can always have. The book is filled with Spoon's remembrances of his Gram, and how he deals with his grief. He misses playing triple solitaire with her and Pa and he knows how much she loved to collect suns. Spoon even tries to come up with a list of 52 details about her. He is afraid he is going to forget. But this is really a story about family relationships: between parent and child, brother and sister, brother and brother, grandparent and grandchild, and the living and the dead. This is a great first novel for any young reader. 1997, Greenwillow Books, $15.00. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Sheree van Vreede (Children's Literature)

Sun & Spoon
Kevin Henkes
   How do you hold on to someone even though that person's dead? Ten-year-old "Spoon" Gilmore hasn't a clue. (I won't spoil your pleasure in how apt and odd this nickname is by revealing its source out of context.) All Spoon knows is he can't go on the trip he'd been looking forward to with his older brother and their Oregon grandma, Evie. And he can't go to sleepaway camp because he might get so sad that he'd have to leave, which would be embarrassing. He needs to stay home. On account of "Gran," their grandma from close by. She'd died. And Spoon has got to find something of hers. Only, what? Not a photograph. She'd never liked photos, and he didn't either. It had to be something more, something important to her. She'd collected stained-glass suns, all sizes, all colors. Spoon sees them sparkling in her window, and he wants one. But he'd have to ask "Pa" (his grandfather), which would embarrass him totally. He thinks and thinks, what can he take? He searches for hints in dreams (which, by the way, this author renders believably, as elusive, illogical fragments). At last a thing occurs to him that seems right, perfect! And Pa won't even notice it's gone, Spoon is sure. Disaster: Pa not only notices, but gets distraught, can't understand how this thing could have just vanished, starts worrying, was he going soft in the head? Could he have put it somewhere, and forgotten? Spoon is devastated. What can he do? How can he make things right? The tension mounts so high, I almost couldn't bear it. "Come clean!" I felt like shouting, "Put it back!" Eventually he does, to his own and our huge relief. But not till after he has ransacked his brain (and heart) for every single memory shred of what made Gram so special, so, well, "Gram." In the course of this dogged, persistent process, he comes upon a thing--a sign, of Gram, of who she really always was. And he doesn't have to ask anyone if he can take it. He already has it. He's had it right along! Kevin Henkes creates characters as few authors can. Spoon's 6-year-old sister Joanie, for one, is so uniquely and deliciously impossible, I hope she'll someday star in a book of her own. As for Spoon, Henkes takes you directly inside this boy's private, unsayable feelings and thoughts, enabling you to know his more precisely than it's sometimes possible to know a child or grandchild of your own. Sun and Spoon, so simply told, trusts readers with truths that many children's authors avoid or else treat mawkishly. Weighty though his subject is, Henkes's touch is light and deft. This book is fresh, delightful from start to end. I wish it many starred reviews, awards and prizes. 1997, Greenwillow, 5-1/4 x 8, 144 pages, $15.00. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Doris Orgel (The Five Owls, September/October 1997 (Vol. 12, No. 1))
ISBN: 0688152325
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 1998; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Capitol Choices, 1997; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 1998; Children's Literature; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1998; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Reading Magic Awards, 1997; Parenting; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, July 1997; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 1997; Cahners; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 1998 Middle Grade Readers United States
   Elizabeth Burr Award Winner 1998 United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award Reading List, 1999-2000; Nominee; Arkansas
   Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1999-2000; Nominee; Iowa
   Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1999; Nominee; Kentucky
   Maine Student Book Award, 1998-1999; Nominee; Maine
   Nevada Young Readers' Award, 2001; Nominee; Nevada
   Nutmeg Children's Book Award, 2002; Nominee; Connecticut
   Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 2000; Nominee; Illinois
   William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1999-2000; Nominee; Kansas

Wemberly Worried
Kevin Henkes
   Add Wemberly to the list of Henkes's appealing anthropomorphic characters drawn from the children we know. She worries about everything: "Big things, little things, and things in between." Of course the start of school brings the greatest worries of all, with text in typeface to match. Fortunately, a wise teacher introduces her to a friend who can share her doll and her worries, a satisfying end for equally worried readers. Henkes creates, with his economy of ink line and watercolor paints, a cast of characters who communicate their feelings directly. Wemberly, in particular, is that nervous pre-schooler in all of us--eyes downcast and posture drooping, who finally stands tall and smiling when she finds a friend. 2000, Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature)

Wemberly Worried
Kevin Henkes
   Wemberly worries about everything, but especially about the first day of school. Fortunately, she makes a new friend, and in all the fun, even forgets her worries! Another of Kevin Henkes's mouse tales, this one is a masterpiece of understatement. When Wemberly meets Jewel, Wemberly holds Petal, her stuffed rabbit. Jewel holds Nibblet, her stuffed cat. In the dance of friendship, the shy little mice girls peek at each other and then introduce their dolls. The stuffed animals wave and speak, as the mice girls cannot. The girls confide secrets about their dolls and finally play together as the stuffed babies sit side by side. Adults will notice the illustrations' details such as Grandma's "Go with the Flow" tee-shirt. Wemberly's parents are supportive, but it's Wemberly who must face her fears and find solutions. The emotions on the mice's faces are believable, and small touches like one mouse in a wheelchair ring true. It is an excellent choice for reading at home before school starts or to read in a class during the first week of school! 2000, Greenwillow Books, Unpaged, $15.89. Grades Preschool-2. Reviewer: Tanya Tullos (Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 13, No. 1))

Wemberly Worried
Kevin Henkes
   Wemberly, the newest member of Kevin Henkes' mouse menagerie, worries about everything. She worries that no one will come to her birthday party. When a darling mob of mice descends, she worries there won't be enough cake. Wemberly's parents urge her not to worry so much. Yet their own brows furrow, just like their daughter's. Meanwhile, Wemberly's grandma sports plaid shorts, a cane and roller blades, and a sweatshirt emblazoned "Go With the Flow." Henkes' familiar drawing style is as charming as ever. Bright watercolor washes are overlaid with bold dabs. His fluid ink lines are thick and black for the biggest shapes. Sketchy hatch lines add form to the colors, while lending a hint of delicacy. Henkes fans will delight in his joke-filled Halloween parade: mice dressed as cheese; a tiny mouse-elephant; a pajama-clad mouse wearing a Richard Scarry cat head; and a ghost with a Groucho Marx mustache, red boots and a purple plastic purse. Of course, it must be Lilly under there, famous from a book of her own. Design-wise, a Henkes mouse has no mouth unless it is closed and smiling. Hence, Henkes relies on eyes, eyebrows, and staging to enhance emotion. Delightful examples include the mouse-packed park or crowded classroom, where Henkes gives most mice downcast gazes, leading viewers to the characters with wide-open eyes: Wemberly, of course, and those most to her. Yet Wemberly's pivotal relationship with her bunny doll, Petal, is difficult to pin down. An early illustration shows a "little thing" Wemberly worries about: spilled juice. But the purple juice has stained the tablecloth and is now at table's edge, about to cascade onto the prone, helpless form of dear, yellow Petal. Surely such an accident would be no small thing! Especially since, a few pages later, we are told that Wemberly always worries about Petal. On that same page, we see a picture where Wemberly believes that "Petal is lost forever!" Yet Wemberly's posture is upright, and only one tear makes her expression different than before. Worse, the feared loss is only one event of many worries listed on the page, minimizing its importance. Henkes wanted to save the heights of emotion for Wemberly's greatest worry: starting school. The growth of this anxiety is beautifully orchestrated with page design: growing type size, followed by small type with big pictures, then huge type with small forms. All ends happily, as Henkes fans know it will. Wemberly's teacher, the aptly-named Miss Peachums, immediately introduces our heroine to another young worry-wart. And friendship, it seems, leaves less time for worry. Wemberly is too busy to do anything but smile for the last five pages. Readers will be smiling long before. 2000, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Diana Star Helmer (The Five Owls, September/October 2000 (Vol. 15, No. 1))
ISBN: 0688170277
Best Books:
   Capitol Choices, 2000; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Children's Choices, 2001; International Reading Association; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2001; Children's Literature; United States
   Notable Books for Children, 2001; American Library Association-ALSC; United States
   Parent's Guide to Children's Media, 2001; Parent's Guide to Children's Media, Inc.; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 2000; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, August 2000; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 2000; Cahners; United States
   Teachers' Choices, 2001; International Reading Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 2001 Picture Books United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Flicker Tale Children's Book Award, 2002; Nominee; North Dakota
   Georgia Children's Literature Awards, 2001-2002; Nominee; Georgia
   Maryland Children's Book Award, 2002; Nominee; Maryland
   Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award, 2001-2002; Nominee; Pennslyvania
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 2002; Nominee; Utah
   Volunteer State Book Award, 2003; Nominee; Tennessee
   Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award, 2002; Nominee; Washington
   Young Hoosier Book Award, 2003; Nominee; Indiana

Wemberly's Ice Cream Star
Kevin Henkes
   A new book by Kevin Henkes is always a treat and Wemberly's Ice Cream Star does not disappoint. In this board book spin-off featuring popular Henkes characters like Sheila Rae and Owen, it is Wemberly's turn to step into the limelight. One hot day Wemberly is given an ice cream star. Ever the worrier, she is afraid it will drip on her dress. Then she realizes her stuffed rabbit Petal doesn't have any. She waits patiently for the ice cream to melt into two bowls. They both eat ice cream soup: "And neither of them spilled a drop." In a postscript, Wemberly generously offers to "help" Petal finish hers. Non-pareil striped end-papers and sherbet pastels contribute to the confectionery theme. The story is short and sweet, but never saccharine. The text is printed on rainbow backgrounds while the illustrations are grounded on white. Henkes' has the rare ability to tap into the simple, pure essence of childhood. His saucer-eared mice deal with problems toddlers can relate to. His solutions are believable. Children ages one to three will eat up this book like dessert. Grown-ups will want a big spoonful, too. 2003, Greenwillow/HarperFestival, $6.95. Ages 1 to 3. Reviewer: Candice Ransom (Children's Literature)

Wemberly's Ice Cream Star
Kevin Henkes
   Wemberly, the heroine of Wemberly Worried, continues to worry in this brief board book. Given the ice-cream star on a stick, she worries that it will drip on her new dress. She is also concerned that there is none for her stuffed bunny Petal. So she takes two bowls, two spoons, and two napkins, and waits patiently through several double pages, until they both can enjoy ice cream soup without spilling a drop. Henkes creates a sketchy little anthropomorphic girl/mouse who can involve our emotions with just a gesture. With a minimum of detail and background, he tells the visual story completely. Who can resist smiling at the appealing Wemberly, as she assures Petal that she will "help finish yours?" 2003, Greenwillow/ HarperFestival/ HarperCollins Publishers, $6.99. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature)
ISBN: 0060504056

 

Updated 11/01/03

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