Quote of the Month

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




Thursday, January 5, 2017

Crack...

A box without hinges, key or lid, yet...
golden treasure inside is hid.

When wandering in the wild whenever you find a nest filled with eggs or an egg with no nest or parents in the area, unless you have prior knowledge of its coloring, you have no idea what this egg represents.  There is a tiny life inside; growing and waiting to burst forth into the world.  It's the not-knowing which gives an egg its magic.  It offers us the opportunity to wonder and discover. 

Unless eggs happen to be on an animal's diet, if found they might approach them with the same curiosity as we humans do.  What is this?  Does it belong to someone?  What's inside?  Beloved and esteemed author illustrator Kevin Henkes released his fiftieth title on January 3, 2017.   Egg (Greenwillow Books) is full of all those little moments which make life as wonderful as it can be.

egg
egg
egg
egg
crack
crack
crack
egg 

In those first eight images placed in four squares on two pages we know one very important thing.  Not all eggs are cracked up to be as presented.  Three of the four eggs are opening, issuing forth the joy held inside.  The fourth simply is.  

After the three colorful little birds have flown away we watch the fourth egg and wait and wait and wait a whole bunch more.  The avian trio return, puzzled.  They huddle.  They snuggle.  They are still as can be hoping to hear a sound.  Then the suspense lures them to do what comes naturally.  They peck and peck and peck a whole bunch more.

crack

YIKES!

Three colorful little birds fly far away.  One infant becomes sadder and lonelier by the minute.  One by one, the trio, overcome by inquisitiveness, comes closer with caution. 

It's not exactly a tree branch but it's green like leaves and it moves.  This is something worth chirping about to all who will listen.  A foursome of friends glides and rides on water watching a sunset.  Or perhaps it isn't the sun...


Single words used in repetition supply a subtle rhythm pointing to the noticeable difference in the fourth egg.  When Kevin Henkes does this, he creates mystery.  We as readers realize the passage of considerable time when he uses the word waiting seventeen times in a wonderful and masterful sequence.  It's a perfect lead into the return of the feathered friends.  

Only fifteen different words on used in this title.  It is their frequency and position in the story which fashion impeccable pacing.  As you enjoy the tale told, you also feel amazement growing at the brilliance of this work.


Kevin Henkes' use of brown as a framing and outlining color adds a softness and warmth to all the illustrations rendered in brown ink and watercolor paint.  When you open the dust jacket to the left, on the back, are a pale pink, pale yellow, pale blue and pale green eggs.  The text beneath them is 

crack      crack     crack     ?

When you first see the illustration on the front all you want to do is reach out and hug those little birds and the pale green egg.  They as well as the text are varnished.  On the book case a large brown cloth spine reaches out to a pale blue background on each side.  Egg in slightly larger letters tops the front.  The elements are the same on the front and back hinting at the ending.

Small pale blue, yellow, pink and green squares separated by a fine brown line present a pattern for the opening and closing endpapers.  A single informal title page edged in a larger brown line holds space for Egg.  The formal title page spans two pages with Kevin Henkes' name and the publisher's name on the left and a large Egg on the right.  In the spaces of the e and g letters are pale pink, yellow and blue.  The verso and dedication pages feature a single illustration, the sun over the letters,

for s.k.

To provide the storytelling cadence, the ebb and flow of the narrative, Henkes may break up a page into equal squares, use a single large image on one page, or divide a page into sixteen spaces.  It's his choice when to use these panel sizes on his pages and whether he includes words or not, that draw readers completely into his story.  We can readily identify with all the characters.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is the special surprise! page.  It is framed in a wide brown line.  A portion of each little bird is shown.  The pink bird is coming in from the corner of the left edge.  The yellow and blue birds are looking in from the right.  Front and center, wearing a huge grin, sitting in the cracked and open shell is the newborn.  At the sight of this creature, the eyes on the birds are wide, wide open.  I guarantee readers will gasp and laugh at this scene.

Egg written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, even though 2017 is young, will be one of this year's best books.  It welcomes discussion about expectations, patience, trust, compassion and friendship.  I recommend you share this as often as you can and get copies for your professional and personal shelves.  I'm heading to the book shop to get more myself.

To discover about Kevin Henkes the person and his other forty-nine books please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  I enjoyed reading these two posts at The Horn Book, Kevin Henkes Talks with Roger, December 1, 2015 and Kevin Henkes - Twenty-five Years July 1, 2005.




4 comments:

  1. I love Kevin Henkes work too, Margie! So looking forward to this one!

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    Replies
    1. Every book he does is as good as the previous one, if not better. This recent title is outstanding.

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  2. I think I may have already commented (or at least I thought of doing it ;)). But I cannot wait to read this one. I just got an email from my library that it's in transit :)

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