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June 12, 2017

Waiting

by Anne Paddock

Books are often the first exposure to art that children have. Keeping that in mind urges me to make the very best books possible. I know how important the books from my childhood were (and are) to me. Without them, I might not be a writer and artist today.                                    ~Kevin Henkes

There are books that stay with us for a lifetime even if we only had the pleasure of discovering their magic as adults reading to children.  If you’re a parent, there is a high probability at least one book written by Kevin Henkes is on your child’s bookshelf. A contemporary writer of children’s books, Henkes is the author of more than a dozen titles including Wemberly WorriedJulius The Baby of the World, Sheila Rae, the Brave, Chester’s Way, A Weekend with Wendell, Owen,  Chrysanthemum, Lilly’s Big Day, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, and Waiting, a Caldecott Honor Book published in 2015.

Geared toward the Pre-K – 8-year-old age group, Waiting is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of 5 toys who live on the window sill of a child’s bedroom. Each toy takes delight in a part of the outside world as seen through the large picture window as the seasons pass by. When a new toy joins the five friends on the window sill, the wonder of another perspective enchants the group.

One of the subtle messages in this book is that of contentment. Living in the moment. So often, we are always thinking about the future – the new job, the new house, the new baby, the next vacation – when, in reality, those moments flee right by and keep us in a constant state of a different kind of waiting. Waiting shows the reader the beauty of the “wonderful, interesting things” the characters see WHILE waiting and in that, they find joy.

There are few writers as talented as Henkes, who both writes AND illustrates his books. Most of the characters in the books are mice (or toys, as in Waiting) with human characteristics.  That many of the stories are humorous and often poke fun at adults (the nosey neighbor, the parents who don’t know how to say “no” to a child, the teacher we all remember) adds to the delight of reading these timeless classics. But, what makes these books so special, is the perspective from which the books were written – which is that of a child, when the wonder of words and art convey the essence of childhood.

What Ronald Dahl did for young readers is what Kevin Henkes does for young children. But, remember that just because these books are geared towards children doesn’t mean adults don’t enjoy them. Just as Ronald Dahl’s books continue to enjoy space on my bookshelf (and are periodically taken out and re-read), so are Kevin Henkes books.  These are books to buy, read, re-read, and keep forever.

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