Kevin Henkes' Kitten's First Full Moon
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
"Author-illustrator" isn't a sufficient description of Kevin Henkes. "Artist-storyteller" perhaps. "Master storyteller."
Any picture book author will tell you: writing a tiny little story is hard.
That can seem counter-intuitive to people. Isn't shorter easier?
No. Having all the time and all the pages you need in order to get your story told is a luxury! Doing it the way Kevin Henkes does it - keeping tiny people with tiny attention spans enthralled - is an art form.
He's a visual and literary poet.
Kitten's First Full Moon
The thing about your first full moon is that it looks an awful lot like a "little bowl of milk in the sky." And if you're a hungry little kitten, that means you're going to try to get to that little bowl.
Try, try, try.
Of course, you and I know that Kitten isn't going to get to it. That little bowl is rather "pie in the sky." But Kitten doesn't know that. So we identify with her.
Our little ones really identify with her.
After all, Kitten is just like our youngest children. They don't know what the moon is until we tell them. They don't understand how the heck it floats up there or why it seems to be following us when we drive in the car. Review continues.
Kitten ends up jumping into a pond where she sees the moon reflected. She of course finds herself "wet and sad and tired and hungry."
But then she gets back home, and there's a "great big bowl of milk" waiting for her.
Just waiting there. Almost magically. Kind of like the way bottles and meals and diapers suddenly appear when you need them. Kitten goes on her adventure, is frustrated in her efforts, then returns to find her needs taken care of.
Am I wrong, or has Henkes just captured toddlerhood in a nutshell?
Henkes uses only 261 words and deceptively simple pictures to spin a Caldecott Medal-winning tale that'll leave your little ones desperate for multiple readings. (To keep your own sanity, you might want to keep some of Henkes' other work handy too.)
Kitten's First Full Moon is one of the most complete and fulfilling little stories you're ever likely to run across.
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