Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Age Range: 1-5
Synopsis: A look into the small things in life that make everyone joyful delivered from the view of shelf toys.
Bug received Waiting as a present this summer and I was of course excited to receive a new book and a be introduced to a new author, since I didn’t recognize the style on the cover. It was only when I looked more closely at the author that I realized that it was none other than Kevin Henkes. He has long been a favorite in our household and I was quite dumb struck that I hadn’t been able to identify his work immediately. This may sound silly, but I normally expect a Kevin Henkes book to have mice and this one was suspiciously lacking. It was, however, perfectly in possession of all the sweetness and life lessons that I’ve come to expect from Kevin Henkes books.
Henkes deviates from his normal characters but as I studied the pages I could see more and more of the signature expressions his characters hold. His color usage was different as well, going for more soft pastels like he used in Little White Rabbit. They’re different and simple but they still maintain the ability to assist in storytelling that I see time and time again in his stories. The pictures are truly lovely but I feel that it’s actually the simplicity of the story itself, that make this book something to treasure.
It would be misleading to say that Waiting is a story. It doesn’t particularly have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s more of a catalogue of events. We’re introduced to the five animals that live on the shelf of a window ledge and the events that make their waiting worthwhile. They each have small things that make their days, or the days leading up to certain events, exciting. The pig with the umbrella likes it when it rains and the puppy with the sled likes it when it snows. The others each have their own enjoyments. They enjoy the view from their window shelf, admiring icicles and fireworks, lighting bolts and rainbows. They have small changes that take place in their life. Things are added to the shelf; one cat is a nesting doll and produces four kittens. And there are things that are taken away; a breakable elephant joins the shelf on one page and then has an accidentally fatal fall before the page is turned. It was so shocking that I physically gasped and then felt immediate sorrow. Waiting is a refreshing break from the plots and morals that we tend to barrage our children with. It is merely a beautifully subtle statement of what life is.
Life is enjoying, participating, experiencing, and waiting. Things are added unexpectedly and things are taken away without rhyme or reason. There’s no explanation for these events, most of the time. They are what they are and we deal with the additions and subtractions, to our own shelves, as best we can. There are also the things that we wait for. For me it’s a book release, fresh everything bagels, Bug’s newest discovery, or my husband picking flowers for me. For others it’s something else. We all have our own things that makes us tick. And when we’re not waiting we can enjoy the beauty and wonder around us, whether it’s rainbows or fireworks or just simply gazing out the window.
- Waiting is a hard concept to grasp for little ones. Whether they’re waiting for soup to cool or for a birthday to come. This is a great story to point of the difference between long and short waiting (the owl waits for the moon vs the doggy who waits for snow).
- On a somber note, this book is a nice introduction to the concept of death. You don’t need to dwell on it but pointing out that the elephant isn’t going to come back is a nice, small step towards acquainting them with the idea.
- On a happier note, the same introduction can be made for babies in relation to the kitty cat.
I want more!
Kevin Henkes has a plethora of kids books and even some novels (I love finding out new things). While a large number of his books involve mice (my favorite is Chrysanthemum) he does have other picture books that are either animal-free or or revolve around kitties, bunnies, or other adorable creatures. Our favorite of those is Little White Rabbit. I haven’t read any of his novels but Olive’s Ocean and The Year of Billy Miller both won Newberry Medals. Check out his fantastic website: http://www.kevinhenkes.com/
Add to my library:
US Amazon: Waiting