The picture book Waiting has earned Kevin Henkes x’83 two of the highest accolades in children’s literature for 2016: designations as a Caldecott Honor Book and a Geisel Honor Book. This is only the second time that anyone has won that combination, and these wins make Henkes the sole author/illustrator to have earned honors across the Caldecott, Geisel, and Newbery categories.
These are just the latest manifestations of literary praise and reader love that Henkes’s nearly fifty picture books and youth novels have garnered. Some of his best-known titles include Kitten’s First Full Moon, Owen, Penny and Her Marble, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, Olive’s Ocean, and The Year of Billy Miller.
The congratulatory phone call prompted a reaction of “great joy,” Henkes told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I’ve been done with the book for a long time,” he said, and “my heart and soul are thinking about what’s next. So when something like this happens, it’s a nice bit of frosting on the cake.”
The stars of Waiting are figurines of an owl, pig, bear, puppy, and rabbit sitting on a child’s bedroom windowsill. They’re all waiting for extraordinary things to happen — and they do: outside, inside, instantly, over time, spectacularly, quietly, frequently, and seldom. The book addresses the waiting that kids regularly experience and Henkes’s notion that, while waiting, “often life throws unexpected joys and sadnesses one’s way.”
The hundred-some little animal sculptures that he’s made at a clay studio near his Madison home were the spark for Waiting’s characters: those that sat on his own studio windowsill looked as if they were waiting for something.
Henkes’s latest work — illustrated by his wife, Laura Dronzek ’82, MFA’93 — is When Spring Comes, and look for his next book, Egg, in 2017.
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Published in the Summer 2016 issue