Introducing-my favorite children's author: Kevin Henkes. I know! A favorite? What? How can I pick one favorite? But alas, it's true! I think Kevin Henkes is absolutely the man. Everything he does is magic. I love his unique little rodent-characters and all their nuances. I love his simple, perfect-for-his-stories artwork, and I love how he loves what he does. Here's what he says: "I used to live with my parents and brothers and sister and work at a card table in my bedroom. Now I live with my wife and son and daughter in our own house and work at a drawing table in my own studio. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to be a real author and illustrator. I wouldn't trade it for anything." Do you not love him already?
I will feature many of his books in the near future, but today I start with my favorite (using that word again?!) of his characters and the first of his titles I discovered.
Meet Lilly. She is the snazziest rodent you ever did see. She wears red cowboy boots and everything! She is excited, she is loud, and sometimes she is sassy. SASSY. I actually like this about her because she gets in trouble for it (and has to sit in the uncooperative chair). And as a result, she learns. Without cheesiness (well, actually, there usually is cheese involved, as a lot of Henkes' stories are about mice...but it's actual cheese, not the sentimental stuff) or hitting you over the head with it, Kevin Henkes brilliantly teaches morals-even to the sassiest of mice and children.
But we're getting off track. Lilly stars or co-stars in several of Henkes' books, but I think Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is her best. In it, we read the story of how dearly Lilly loves school, particularly because of her teacher, Mr. Slinger. "Mr. Slinger was as sharp as a tack. He wore artistic shirts...Instead of 'Greetings, students' or 'Good morning, pupils,' Mr. Slinger winked and said, 'Howdy!'" Lilly loves Mr. Slinger so much that she decides to be a teacher when she grows up (instead of a surgeon or an ambulance driver or a diva--her prior ambitions). But then one day Lilly comes to school with some new treasures from her Grammy. "Lilly had a new pair of movie star sunglasses, complete with glittery diamonds and a chain like Mr. Slinger's. She had three shiny quarters. And, best of all, she had a brand new purple plastic purse that played a jaunty tune when it opened." As you can imagine, Lilly becomes quite disruptive with all her new wares, and Mr. Slinger takes them from her for the day. In her sassy SASSY rage, Lilly draws a terrible picture about Mr. Slinger and slips it into his bag...
I will let you read it to find out how things turn out. (Don't worry! Kevin Henkes' stories have happy endings!) But promise me that you WILL read it! If you don't, you'll miss learning what the Lightbulb Lab is (I copied Mr. Slinger and set up one in my classroom--it was a hit!), you'll miss all of the clever dialogue, and you'll miss Lilly, Mr. Slinger, and all the other rodent-students doing interpretive dance. There--that seals the deal. I'm sure you'll read it now.
Enjoy Lilly and stay tuned for more Kevin Henkes Rainbow Books.