Looking Forward: Waiting by Kevin Henkes
THERE WERE FIVE OF THEM. AND THEY WERE WAITING...
Five old-fashioned toys are arranged carefully on a windowsill, as if some thoughtful child had placed them there to see the sky outside. A spotted owl waits for the moon, while a lady pig with a parasol looks for sun. A Teddy with his kite waits for a brisk wind, while the puppy on the sled clearly wishes to see some snow. The accordion rabbit is just there for the company.
In a evocative story of the gentle joy of the activities of daily life and the joys of their anticipation, Caldecott author-artist Kevin Henkes gives young readers an appreciation of the possibilities of what lies ahead for them, what the long wait of childhood will yield. Meanwhile, there is so much to be seen in what lies before them.
ONCE A VISITOR ARRIVED FROM FAR AWAY. HE STAYED A WHILE AND THEN HE LEFT AND NEVER RETURNED.
The visitor, a china Indian elephant, falls from the sill and shatters, and the toys are sad that he is gone, but unaware of his fate. All they know is what they see from the window.
Snowfall, spring and fall, changing cloud shapes and blue skies delight the five friends. Dark skies and lightning storms terrify the watchers, who huddle together fearfully until it is over. Night falls, and we see the five friends apparently snoozing, horizontally arranged along the sill, and a sunny morning finds them back in position, as page turns reveal what the toys have wished for. The presence of the toys' owner is there only as the unseen hand that arranges and rearranges his toys on the sill as time passes. Indeed, on a deeper level, the toys themselves are a sort of projection of the child's imagination of what is to come; it is he who longs for snow for his sled and a moonrise for his window.
Henkes' latest, Waiting (Greenwillow Press, 2015), is a picture book which can be appreciated on several levels. Little of the interior world is seen but the window frame, but the author-illustrator has one surprise in waiting for his readers: a fat spotted cat appears one day, and to the astonishment of the other toys, one morning four kittens in graduated sizes crowd the sill with them. (The cat is a nesting toy, in the Russian doll mode), and the toys see that there are more amazing new possibilities before them.
NOW THERE WERE TEN OF THEM.
AND THEY WERE HAPPY TOGETHER, WAITING TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT.
A lot of life lies in waiting for what happens next, and in his gently evocative parable of reality and possibility, Henkes hints at depths of meaning in the way of the great creators of classic picture books. (Think Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.) Henkes' retro-styled illustrations are cozily charming, yet suggest much more meaning than meets the eye.