Allison's Book Bag

Juggling Drawing and Writing

Posted on: September 30, 2013

My apologies for this belated post! Normally, author information comes before my review and serves as promotional teasers. However, my husband and I have two pets with health issues, and last week taking care of them took priority. Please take some time to read the below and acquire some knowledge about Kevin Henkes. Then return tomorrow for my write-up about Plum Creek Literacy Festival where Henkes appeared as a special guest.

Kevin Henkes Autograph [315/365]

Kevin Henkes Autograph [315/365] (Photo credit: trustypics)

I’ve been writing and illustrating children’s books for thirty years. It’s the only real job I’ve ever had.

Kevin Henkes almost became an artist instead of an author. Born in 1960 in Racine, Wisconsin, he regularly visited the local public library during his childhood years where illustrators such as Crockett Johnson and Garth Williams inspired him. In high school, a teacher encouraged his writing, making him rethink his writing choice. Henkes came to realize that children’s books would combine both his artistic and literary endeavors.

With this new goal firmly in mind, Henkes became a regular patron in the children’s room at the Racine Public Library. The librarian made sure to point out any new arrivals that he might like. The librarian also directed him to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in Madison, situated on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, about an hour and a half away from his hometown. As a result, when he graduated from high school, he headed for college in Madison.

Henkes’s first book was written, when he just nineteen and still an art major at the University of Wisconsin. Equipped with a list of publishers culled from extensive hours of browsing at the CCBC, he took his portfolio to New York. Within days he had his first book contract with Greenwillow, who has published all of his picture books to date.

All Alone was about a young child who describes the pleasures of occasional solitude, a theme which recurs in many of Henkes’ later books, many of which feature animals. Since that initial publication, Henkes has worked steadily, writing and illustrating more than 15 picture books that have won him a devoted audience as well as considerable critical acclaim.

Henkes told the Cooperative Children’s Book Center that many of his stories are inspired by his family. “Growing up with four siblings,” he says, “teaches you a lot about interpersonal relationships.” His stories are also inspired by the neighborhood full of children where he grew up. Much of what he writes about stems directly from those memories. “I don’t know that I remember details any better than anyone else — I think I remember the feelings.”

In addition to his self-illustrated picture books, Henkes has written a number of novels for young readers. One of those, Olive’s Ocean, won the Newbery Honor for in 2004. I also reviewed it here last week at Allison’s Book Bag.

Henkes lives with his wife and children in Madison, Wisconsin. He enjoys being able to go back and forth between writing and illustrating. Although he never works on illustrating and writing projects at the same time, his mind is rarely still. By the time he has finished a novel, he can count on having several new ideas for picture books.

For more resources, check out the below links:

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