Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pondering The Pause

It seems a contradiction the older you get the less you mind waiting.  With fewer hours on your life clock, it would make sense to not favor waiting.  Perhaps a lesson learned is the peace to be found in pausing.  If we forget why, for whom, or for what we are waiting and use our senses and minds to enjoy the moments, we are far richer in things no dollars can buy.

When you are younger waiting is everywhere in every day.  It's not easy.  Sometimes it's downright frustrating.  Waiting (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 1, 2015) written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes lovingly shows the worth in waiting.

There were five of them.
And they were waiting...

Each windowsill watcher longed for something different; the moon, the rain, the wind and the snow.  One simply enjoyed looking out the window.  Some of these natural occurrences happened more often than others.  No matter the length of time or frequency, each was content.

Were they always together?  Were they always in the same spot on the sill?  Did they ever rest?  Did other objects or visitors appear?

Regardless of the answers to those questions, one thing was abundantly clear.  As the seasons passed they saw marvels in the sky made by the hand of Mother Nature and the cleverness of humans.  These and their most desired experiences, over which none of them had any control, defined their happiness.

Early in the spring the five eagerly noticed a change on their light-filled linear home.  A cat with patches joined the owl with spots, the pig with an umbrella, a bear with a kite, a puppy on a sled and a rabbit with a starry collar.  Is the cat waiting too?  More can and will be the merrier.

When Kevin Henkes writes he offers the heart of his story to readers as simply and beautifully as possible.  His gift is in knowing exactly what his readers need; for the intended audience and the rest of us.  When you read this story aloud (silently too) the quiet truth surrounds you in soothing waves.   Here are two separate passages about one of the animals.  For each of the other four similar phrases are used to make a kind of music.

The bear with the kite was waiting for the wind.  ...
When the wind blew,
the bear was happy.
The kite few high and far.

The first thing you notice when opening the dust jacket is the feel of the paper; matte-finished and heavier.  The use of the creamy white is soft and inviting.  Those five friends sitting on the windowsill enjoying the wondrous shapes of them reflected in the clouds fill you with longing to be there with them.  On the back, to the left, one element is placed on the creamy white background.  It is the new friend.

The book case takes the mint green color from the spine as a canvas for the rabbit placed in the right and left corners respectively.  A warm chocolate brown colors the cloth spine which is then used for the opening and closing endpapers.  Above the title text on the formal page, the five animals look at us, to the right or at each other.  Above the dedication we are shown the gifts in advance.

The shades of blue, green, pink, and brown Henkes uses delicately depict his characters' wishes and their fulfillment as well as their cheerful acceptance of waiting.  To focus on one in particular Henkes frames them in an oval or offers us a closer view of the sill. Their facial expressions, eyes and mouths, and small body movements convey every mood.

 Most of the time the setting is the windowsill and the world outside this specific location.  I want to note also the use of the window panes as frames.  Each contains a separate design element but the image flows from one to the other exquisitely.  Seasons change as do the positions of the animal companions. There are four pages without words; each equally brilliant.

One of my many favorite illustrations (I would frame any page) is of the five watching fireworks.  All of them have their backs to us with the exception of the bear that is slightly turned.  Each is relaxed. (The puppy lying on the sled is precious.) You can almost hear them sighing with pleasure.

This title, Waiting, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes is both eloquent and charming.  You want to hug it, put it under your pillow at night and share it with the world.  You also wish you had these characters to sit upon your windowsill reminding you of the wonder to be found in waiting.

To learn more about Kevin Henkes and his other delightful books, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Here is a link to an author study and some memory cards for this title.  At TeachingBooks.net there are many links to resources about Kevin Henkes.  You are really going to enjoy listening to this interview at NPR:  Some Kids' Books Are Worth The Wait: 'They Do Take Time,' Says Kevin Henkes.  I loved hearing him read excerpts.  Below are some tweets about this title.

Don't miss reading this excerpt.

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