Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Book Review: Waiting by Kevin Henkes (2015)

Five friends - all figurines - stand on a windowsill, each waiting for something. While some of what comes along is predictable, there are also some surprises.

The pictures in this book are similar in style to Henkes’s other recent picture books like A Good Day, and not as much like his popular mouse books. Each picture depicts the different figurines reacting in subtle ways to what happens outside the window and on the windowsill itself. The text hints at many of the story’s events, but it is the illustrations - and specifically the characters’ facial expressions - that really convey the book’s beauty and emotion. The relationship between the text and images is very strong in a way that is really only possible when the author is also the illustrator.

The language in this book is really lovely, making it a pleasure to read aloud. It probably works best as a lap book since the illustrations are a bit small to be seen at a distance, but it might also work in a very intimate story time setting, especially if the theme is seasons, toys, or friendship. Because of the soothing nature of Henkes’s writing, it makes an ideal naptime or bedtime read-aloud.

Though very young children are unlikely to understand the depth of the text, they will still enjoy the book, as evidenced by my toddler’s repeated requests to hear it at naptime during the three weeks we had it from the library. There is really no child too young to appreciate something about it. I think it’s also a good book to share with much older kids, maybe even middle schoolers and high schoolers, as it provides opportunities to discuss symbolism and theme in a much less intimidating book than is typically assigned at that level.

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