Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Kevin Henkes - November 27

Happy Birthday Kevin Henkes - Born November 27, 1960

Confidence.  Where does it come from? Is it something we are born with? How much influence does a parent have on a child's confidence?  These are questions I was thinking about as my wife was out shopping today for Black Friday deals, and the kids were at grandma's house on a surprise overnight after our Thanksgiving Day celebration.  These thoughts about confidence started when I learned that Kevin Henkes, at the age of 19, went to New York City to present his portfolio to children's book publishers.  He said in an interview with BookPage, "I was convinced I would come home with book contract."  Henkes was confident in his abilities as an writer and artist as he convinced Greenwillow to publish his first book All Alone in 1981.

Kevin Henkes said in his biography on his webpage, "I remember drawing at a very young age. I loved it.  My parents and teachers told me I was good at it - and that made me love it all the more."  Also, he dedicated All Alone to his mom by saying "To Mom, for knowing I should take a chance."  If the encouragement from his mother to pursue his dream as a children's book author was a seed, then Henkes' career is now a blossoming flower.  He was the winner of the Caldecott Honor in 1994 for Owen and the Caldecott Medal in 2005 for Kitten's First Full Moon.

During my research, I was surprised to find that Henkes has written many picture books that have been illustrated by other artists.  In an interview by CCBC Henkes said, "Every one of the picture books of mine that has been illustrated by someone else was written when I was in the middle of a novel. In each case I've given up doing the pictures at a time when I was more interested in something else."  Henkes has been successful writing novels as he received Newbery Honor in 2004 for Olive's Ocean.

Henkes may be best known for his mouse books with the popular characters Lilly, Sheila Rae, and Chester.  Our favorite is Chrysanthemum who loves her name until she goes to school where she is teased by her classmates.  She has a tough time being teased but she later once again realizes along with her classmates that it is a beautiful name.  As I was reading this book and many other books by Henkes I particularly liked when he illustrated a few moments in time by breaking it into a series of illustrations.

This style of illustrating gave me an idea of a game to play with my family. First, I made three rectangle shapes out of paper strips.  These rectangles became the frames, similar to Henkes illustrations in the story.  Then I cut pieces of paper to make small cards for players to select.  On the cards I wrote down actions that would be familiar to my children like "brush your teeth" or "make a sandwich."  (Click here to download printable cards) As I was creating this, I thought of the name for the game, "Moment by Moment."  This name describes what the game is all about: pick a card, read the action, and think about how you would break it down into three parts. The actions are then performed in each frame to create the "moment by moment" sequence.  Everyone then tries to guess what action was on your card.

We had a great time playing this game.  We found that it was very helpful to be able to do the sequence at least twice, so you can see how the 3 boxes go together.   As we played, it made me think you could come up with some sort of scoring system based on how many times the sequence needed to be performed.  We just played for fun!

In closing, I need to thank my mom for encouraging me to pursue expanding this blog. It was at that moment a seed of confidence was planted.  Then, it has been my children, wife, family, readers, and authors that have helped me continue to grow as I gain confidence in my writing.  I appreciate all the positive feedback!


1.  The Kevin Henkes Website - Plus Activities
2.  Interviews with Kevin Henkes - BookPage, CCBC
3.  Literature Circle Guides from Scholastic - The Zebra Wall, Olive's Ocean
4.  The World of Kevin Henkes (A Picture Book Teacher's Guide) - HarperCollins
5.  Kevin Henkes Accepts 2009 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award for Old Bear - YouTube
6.  Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse Promo - Barnes and Noble
7.  Kevin Henkes talks about Little White Rabbit - TeachingBooks
8.  Illustrator Video: Kevin Henkes - Cynsations 


  1. Another Henkes book that we really enjoyed is "Birds." We reviewed it here.
    Everyone that I know that has read it has loved it!

  2. We really liked Birds too. Thanks for posting your review!

  3. Hi!

    I follow your blog and I thought you might like to know that I have awarded you with the Versatile Blogger Award!

    You can pick it up here

    Carolina [WritnBlock]

  4. We love Chrysanthemum, too. We had the chance to meet Kevin Henkes this spring at a book signing here in WI. My daughter loved watching him draw.

  5. Thanks for your visit to my blog. You invited me to look at yours and am so glad I did - especially since you a post with Kitten's First Full Moon. I love that book - the drawings are wonderful.
    You definitely have a follower in me.

  6. Great post! How wonderful that he had the confidence (and skill) to follow his dream at that's hard enough for folks twice his years to try sometimes. Also, love the Moment by Moment game there...very creative and has oodles of potential. Thanks for sharing...and happy reading!

  7. I just love his illustrations and now to hear about Henkes drive makes his books come that much more alive. It's something I've thought about a lot. I want my children to be inspired to be like that, but not rude. Such a fine line, but I think if you're trying your best with good intentions you could possibly have amazing results that will bring a lot of happiness to both you and your kiddos.

    Also, just have to say, your reviews are spectacular. I love getting to look at these authors in such a different way. It truly opens your eyes to things you hadn't thought of. So thank you!


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