Spotlight on Kevin Henkes: Children's Book Must-Haves

Kevin Henkes (pronounced HENK-us) grew up loving art and books. Although most of his childhood he assumed he would one day become a painter, he also loved to spend time at the library (always selecting books with illustrations, even as he got older).

Things changed when his high school teacher encouraged him to pursue writing and Henkes began to consider children’s books as a way to combine his talents and passions.

Henkes published his first book at age 21. Since then, he has gone on to create more than 30 books for kids. His awards and honors include the Caldecott Medal, which he won three times and the John Newbery Medal, which he has received twice.

If your kids aren’t yet familiar with this author/illustrator’s work, you’ll love discovering them together. Following are a few Kevin Henkes children’s books that the entire family will enjoy:

Sheila Rae, the Brave

Sheila Rae isn’t afraid of anything and she is determined to prove it, so she decides to walk home from school a different way. Her little sister Louise thinks that’s a bad idea. Undeterred, Sheila Rae simply calls her a scaredy-cat and goes on alone.

However, without a little sister around, Sheila Rae starts to feel a bit less brave. Soon, she discovers that she is lost. Fortunately, Louise has been secretly following her the whole time. Together, the siblings prove their combined bravery and display the importance of sticking together.


Little Chrysanthemum Mouse thinks her name is just perfect. That is, until her first day of school. Her new classmates begin to make fun of her strange-sounding from the start.

Sad Chrysanthemum wants to change her name to something shorter and less flowery. Her parents try to soothe her, but when she returns to school and the taunting begins again, the little mouse wilts. However, when the students’ insightful, pregnant music teacher announces that she would like to name her baby the prettiest name she has ever heard, the rest of the class wishes they were named after flowers, too.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Mr. Slinger might just be Lilly’s favorite teacher ever. So much so that she’s even decided that she wants to become a teacher, just like him. He makes every day at school interesting and fun.

However, Lilly’s opinion changes drastically on the day she brings her purple plastic purse to school. The purse holds some of Lilly’s most cherished treasures and she quite literally cannot wait until sharing time to show her friends. After giving her several warnings to put it away, Mr. Slinger takes Lilly’s purse away. Lilly does not know if she will ever feel the same way about her once-favorite teacher.

Chester’s Way

Chester believes there is only one way to do things: his way. His best friend Wilson goes along with all of Chester’s ideas, from cutting their sandwiches diagonally to double knotting their shoelaces. That’s why they are such good friends.

One day, a girl named Lilly moves into Chester and Wilson’s neighborhood. Lilly has very different ways of doing things, so when she tries to become their friend, Chester and Wilson snub her. However, when neighborhood bullies start picking on Chester and Wilson, Lilly uses her own special way of scaring them off. The grateful boys befriend Lilly and discover that maybe trying new things is not so bad after all.

Julius the Baby of the World

Everybody loves sweet baby Julius. He has soft white fur, little black eyes, and a tiny pink nose. Yes, everybody loves baby Julius. Everybody except his big sister Lilly, that is.

She thought she would like being a big sister, but baby Julius changed everything. Lilly has to be quiet when he is napping. She has to share her room with him. She even has to share her parents with him. Lilly just wants Julius to go away. However, when their extended family comes to visit the new baby and her cousin Garland insults her little brother, Lilly’s opinion of baby Julius promptly changes.

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly doesn’t just worry about big things some of the time. She worries about everything, all of the time. Her family says she worries way too much.

When she has to start school, Wemberly has a whole new list of things to worry about.

On the first day of school, Wemberly meets Jewel. Wemberly notices that Jewel seems worried, too. She also notices that they both brought their favorite dolls to school with them. As the girls begin to play together, Wemberly is a little less worried until she is having so much fun that she decides school is nothing to worry about after all.

Kevin Henkes children’s books offer a charming combination of adorable animal characters and relatable stories that make them fast favorites for younger kids. Any of these titles would make a sweet addition to your home library.

What’s your favorite Kevin Henkes book? Who are some of your favorite author/illustrators?

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Tags : books   picture books   

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