Kevin Henkes was just a teenager when he decided he wanted to write picture books. He landed his first book contract when he was still in college.
“People used to assume that I had kids long before I did,” he tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. He eventually had children of his own, but that didn’t change his writing process the way one might have expected.
“When my wife was pregnant with our first child people would say, ‘Oh now you’re going to have so many more ideas,’ ” he recalls. “And it didn’t really happen. I think some of the greats in this field were not parents. I think it probably comes from some other place deep inside. I don’t think you have to have children to write for them.”
The Caldecott and Newbery award-winning author, who has won children over with his lovable cast of characters — Chrysanthemum, Wemberly, Kitten, Lilly — has a new picture book, called Waiting.
Right before Martha leaves to visit her grandmother, she finds a journal page from Olive’s mother after Olive died. Martha finds much in common between herself and Olive, including the fact that they both wanted to be writers.
This book won the 2004 Newberry Honor.
Olive’s Ocean was the third most challenged book of 2007, according to the American Library Asso-ciation. It was banned frequently because of offensive language.
I loved this book. That and Are You My Mother? But, I believe this book got more wear out of it. I was reading by the time I remember this book. I loved it so much, the front and back covers were coming off of it. I think I actually still have this book somewhere. But, it’s about this little girl named Ruthie, and she has an “imaginary” friend named Jessica. She swears up and down that she’s real even though her parents say she’s not. But, in the end she meets a little girl named Jessica in her kindergarten class and she and Jessica become the very best of friends.
I love having something for the adult who is reading to the child. But I try to keep in mind at all times that the book is for the child. I don’t want any of that extra layer to interfere with the main objective, which is to make an entertaining book for a kid.
A children’s book author who isn’t ashamed to write for children. How novel.
What was your favorite childhood book, and why? Looking back, what lessons from the book still resonate with you?
Kristie says:Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. I liked it because it was about a mouse with a unique name. It taught me how to love the unique things about myself that ARE special, and it taught me that my shortened first name is beautiful.
A young man who works in the art department at Greenwillow gave a copy of Kitten’s First Full Moon to his two-year-old niece when the book was first published. I’m told that the little girl loves the book so much that, over time, she’s licked a hole in the page that shows a triumphant Kitten lapping up milk after her journey.