I had the honor of hearing author Kevin Henkes speak yesterday. He is one of my favorite authors and I use his books for storytime sessions quite often. He read parts of his books out loud to us, what a treat! He feels “small things matter for children because small things are big to them.” Another major theme for him is imagination. His characters are bursting with it, like “Lily who wears her imagination on her sleeve.”
Henkes likes repetition in words and pictures for his stories. He usually works out the story first, writing it out on paper then transferring the ideas via his typewriter. He wants the rhythm to be exactly right. It matters to him that “the book provides the reader or listener with something greater, honoring the inner life of children.” He gets the names for his characters from baby name and sometimes even telephone books. Everything in his stories have a meaning and the syllables and sounds reflect this. He got the name for Chrysanthemum from a seed catalog looking for a name with thirteen letters to fit the text.
Penny and Her Song, His is his first book in a series about Penny for beginning readers. He didn’t follow any specific rules, but followed his instincts and reflected on how things were for his children when they were leaning to read. Though the book is short, he created chapters so children could feel a sense of accomplishment.
At the end of the session, he shared some lovely and often funny letters from fans. To hear him read his own works and then the letters was a highlight of the conference for me. It was interesting to hear about his thought process while writing, since he has created so many lovable characters. Kevin Henkes loves his job and I do too, especially yesterday at the Public Library Association conference.