Posted tagged ‘Kevin Henkes’

An Egg Surprise

February 9, 2017

On this snowy, blowy, waiting-for-a-foot-of-snow morning, I have the perfect book that whispers the hint of spring and new things to come. Keven Henkes is a talented and prolific writer and illustrator who has received many prestigious awards for his work. In January, his newest picture book, Egg, was released.


The story begins with four eggs. There is one pink, one yellow, one blue, and one green. Three chicks crack out of their eggs, but the last green egg remains unhatched. The chicks wait and wait until their curiosity gets the best of them. They “peck-peck-peck” until it cracks open and they find out what’s inside. It’s not what the chicks expected. Using a combination of single words, repetition, and wordless pages, Henkes crafts a  story of surprise, uncertainty, and eventual friendship. Words and engaging pastel illustrations are sure to delight children as they easily read along with this satisfying story.



Planting Season

May 26, 2016

In my part of the world, warm weather has taken the place of the extreme cold of winter and early spring. Jack Frost has packed his icy bags for a long vacation. Spring is here, and summer is not too far behind. It’s time for planting gardens!

Fresh vegetables are a boon to everyone’s health. Crunchy radishes, long green beans, juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce leaves – all this can be yours. A little plot of land or a few dirt-filled buckets will do. Get the family together and plant those seeds, nurture them, and watch them grow.

While you’re waiting for your veggie delight, here’s a great book to share.


My Garden written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow books.

A little girl helps her mother in the garden as they water, weed, and chase rabbits away. But the little girl has her own ideas of what she would like in a garden. She imagines a weedless garden with flowers that change color and patterns, chocolate rabbits, a jelly bean bush, and all kinds of possibilities that only a child could dream up. Henkes’ text and colorful spring illustrations will make even the biggest skeptic a believer in garden possibilities. This is a perfect book to plant the seeds of creativity in your children.

If you choose a flower garden over a vegetable garden, here’s another great book.


Planting a Rainbow written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Lois Ehlert’s colorful collages and simple text help children understand the step-by-step process of planting a flower garden. With special care, you’ll soon have a rainbow at your fingertips.

And one more …


Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden written by Edith Pattou and illustrated by Tricia Tusa, Harcourt Children’s Books.

There are many different types of gardens. Mrs. Spitzer’s garden happens to be the students in her classroom. She knows just how to plant the seeds of knowledge in children to make them blossom. Young readers will love Tusa’s delightful illustrations and Mrs. Spitzer’s unusual gardening techniques.






Picture Book Pairings: Fiction/Nonfiction

May 28, 2015

Pairing fiction with nonfiction books is an excellent way to show children how different types of writing can easily be connected. If birds are a hot topic, here are two outstanding books that can be paired. One is Birds, written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek and the other is Feathers Not Just for Flying, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen.

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In the fiction book, Birds, the young narrator talks about birds of all sizes, shapes, colors, and how they move. The text is spare but poetic, and Laura Dronzek’s illustrations are bright and colorful. A variety of birds can be found in the book and, with Dronzek’s illustrations, a few surprises are sure to capture the attention of young readers.

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Pair this book with the nonfiction book, Feathers Not Just for Flying. Melissa Stewart has created an appealing book with two storylines. One has simple text that compares birds’ feathers to everyday objects. “Feathers can shade out sun like an umbrella …” The other has fascinating information about certain birds, the various shapes of their feathers, and how the feathers function. With Brannen’s watercolor illustrations presented in a scrapbook format and Stewart’s attention to scientific details, this book will win over readers.

Book pairings can inspire discussions and motivate children to delve deeper into the subject matter. Try it. You’ll like it.

Let’s Talk Birds

June 19, 2014

At four o’clock each morning, birds convene outside our bedroom window and hold a tweet fest. I don’t know what they’re chirping about, but they have a lot to say at that hour. Maybe they’re planning their day. Maybe they’re gossiping about the events of the previous evening. Whatever they’re doing, it’s disturbing my beauty rest!

I enjoy watching our fine feathered friends in the bird bath during the day. Some very lovely birds come to our exclusive spa. The way they interact with other birds is very enlightening. But why, oh why, do they have to be so noisy in the morning?

If you’re a bird-lover, here are a few books to tweet about, and they won’t wake you up in the morning.

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Birds, written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by his wife, Laura Dronzek, is a very simple story. Using birds as the subject, the story and illustrations combine color and size concepts. The narrative includes elements of imagination and surprise, and it has a very satisfying ending. Dronzek’s illustrations are bright and colorful and will delight young children.

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Feathers, a book written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Lisa McCue, is poetry in flight. Spinelli cleverly introduces readers to a fascinating variety of birds by using different poetic forms. Back matter includes more information about each bird. McCue’s brightly colored illustrations are done in watercolor and acrylic. The birds are shown in their habitats and many pages include borders. This is a perfect book for young bird-lovers.

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How to Heal a Broken Wing, written and illustrated by Bob Graham, is a sweet story of a little boy who rescues a bird with a broken wing. The text is spare, but the message is powerful. With time and hope, the family works together to help heal the bird’s wing. The illustrations, which are subdued at the beginning of the story, are done in pen, watercolor, and chalk. As the story progresses and the bird’s wing heals, the illustrations become more vibrant. This book lends itself to discussions of kindness and caring.

Can you think of any other bird books to share?


September 7, 2012

Kevin Henkes wrote and illustrated a charming book called Wemberly Worried. Wemberly worried about everything. She worried about big things, little things, and everything in between. She worried about the crack in the wall, the hissing radiator, and the tree in the yard. Then came a new worry – school. Despite all Wemberly’s worries, she finds out there is one thing she doesn’t have to worry about anymore. And that’s school.

Sometimes I feel like Wemberly. There are lots of big and little things to worry about – family, work, dust bunnies …

Another thing I worry about is finding enough time in the day to do all that I want to do. I love writing my blog, but sometimes I feel I’m not doing it justice. So I’ve made an executive decision. I will no longer be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays.

But DON’T WORRY!  I’ll be posting on Thursdays from now on, continuing to inform and entertain the masses. Tune in next Thursday to see what’s up!

“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.” ~John Lubbock

Behind the Scenes of the Charlotte Zolotow Award

March 6, 2012

Each year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a children’s literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, bestows the Charlotte Zolotow Award to the author of a picture book deemed to have outstanding writing and which is published in the United States the preceding year.  The Award is named in honor of Charlotte Zolotow, a renowned children’s book author and editor, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a writing scholarship from 1933-36.

This past Saturday I attended the Charlotte Zolotow Award ceremony at which Patrick McDonnell received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for his book, Me … Jane, the story of the young girl who grew up to be Dr. Jane Goodall.

Patrick McDonnell Receiving his Award

I’ve often wondered about the process of choosing the award-winning book, and along came someone who could answer my questions.

Jean Elvekrog had the opportunity to serve on the 2007 and 2008 Charlotte Zolotow Award committees. She has a passion for children’s literature and more energy than anyone I know. She volunteers at local schools, was a former elementary school librarian, and later worked at the Waunakee Public Library. Jean currently is a trustee for public library, is on the board of the Friends of Waunakee Public Library, volunteers as the church librarian at St. John the Baptist Parish, and is involved in several other civic and library organizations, including the Catholic Library Association.  Jean is also a member of the Friends of the CCBC, Inc., and has agreed to tell us what happens behind the scenes of the CZ Award committee.

Jean, tell us a bit more about yourself and why you have such a passion for reading and promoting reading for children?  I fondly recall that, as a child, I would always receive books as gifts from a great aunt of mine.  (She worked as a bookseller in Milwaukee for over forty years).  Frequently, the books were Newbery Award winners.  I used to read and re-read those books and looked forward to the next gift.  I guess I’d say it’s because of Margaret that I became such a lover and promoter of reading for children.

The Charlotte Zolotow Award committee is composed of children’s literature experts. What qualities make a children’s literature expert? I hesitate to use the word, “expert,” but I do know that everyone on the committee has a passion for reading and a deep interest in promoting quality literature for children.  Yes, some of the committee members work in school and public libraries serving children.  However, others are educators or day care providers and some work in higher education or social services.  They represent a nice cross section, which is great.  It is important that each of them has the opportunity to be able to read to/with children on a regular basis during the judging period.

Approximately how many books do committee members review?  Shipments from publishers would arrive almost daily during the three to four months we deliberated.  It rapidly became apparent that as a committee member, we needed to organize the titles in our homes or offices so they could readily be accessed for examination and re-examination!  I’m sure we received 750 books, but many of those didn’t meet the award criteria.

What is the ratio of fiction books to nonfiction books that are reviewed?  It’s hard to determine the ratio, but I can say without a doubt that fiction greatly outnumbered nonfiction.  The reason is that more fiction is published for children each year than nonfiction.  However, it’s important to note that while the number of nonfiction titles is less, the nonfiction that is published continues to increase in quality and much of the fiction has become “marginal.”  This is a good time to point out that the winner of the 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award is nonfiction; it’s the outstanding childhood story of chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall.  I was very pleased with the committee’s choice.

Patrick McDonnell Signing Me … Jane

What was it you personally looked for in choosing a winner?   I not only looked for outstanding writing, but also appreciated it when the writing and the illustrations worked together.  You’d think this would always be true, but it isn’t!

Can you give us some insight into the inner workings of the committee?  In 2007 and 2008, we gathered at the CCBC approximately every 4-6 weeks, and we always met face-to-face.  I’ve heard that now the committee meets virtually during the first few months and doesn’t get together until near the end of the deliberations.  As a result, the pool of persons to be considered as members is greater because geographic location is no longer a barrier.  Conference calls, skyping, and e-mails can make virtual meetings possible.  It’s a great example of making technology work for us.

When the winner is finally chosen, does everyone on the committee have to agree with the decision or is it majority rules?  I can only speak from my experience, but I do recall that when we narrowed our choices for the final voting in 2007 and 2008, we all were very pleased with the winners: Peter McCarty (Moon Plane, Henry Holt, 2006) and Greg Foley (Thank You Bear, Viking, 2007).  It’s important to note that the committee can also name up to five honor books and up to ten highly commended titles.

Do you have some advice you’d like to impart to aspiring picture book writers?  I’ve always believed in “quality” over “quantity” in writing.  That is a trait instilled in me by my high school journalism teacher, and it has remained with me ever since.  A children’s picture book author needs to be clear and concise or he/she will lose the reader very quickly.  I maintain that one author who has succeeded in doing this in all of his picture books is Kevin Henkes.  I’ve never “lost” children from my audiences when I’ve read Kevin’s books to them!

Thank you, Jean, for your sharing your knowledge of the inner workings of the Charlotte Zolotow Award committee.


Lilly’s Big Day in Curacao?

September 6, 2011

On our last evening in Curacao, an island in the Caribbean, the hotel we stayed at hosted a wedding expo. I’m not in the market for weddings, but it was interesting to see what they had to offer. Curacao is a beautiful place for a destination wedding, but I have to admit the wedding expo, which was staged outside, was not to my taste.

The one person I thought would absolutely marvel at the expo was Lilly from Kevin Henkes’ book Lilly’s Big Day.

In this book, Lilly’s teacher is getting married, and Lilly is convinced that she is going to be the flower girl. Lilly practices every day, and when she finds out her teacher has chosen his niece, Ginger, to be the flower girl, Lilly is devastated. Mr. Slinger, being a kind and understanding teacher, tells Lilly she can be Ginger’s assistant. Lilly hopes something will happen so Ginger won’t be able to be the flower girl. To Lilly’s dismay, Ginger is ready and willing until it comes time to walk down the aisle. With a smile on her face and her head held high, Lilly saves the day by carrying Ginger down the aisle.   

As I wandered around the expo, I could see Lilly slowly making her way down the aisle with the sound of the surf in the background.


I could see Lilly dancing around the colorful inflated shapes,

 and lounging on the pillows,

or finding the perfect diva style chair to let everyone know she is an amazing flower girl.  

Whatever the case may be, I think Lilly should take a trip to Curacao and show them how to do a wedding “Lilly style.”

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