Monday, December 13, 2021

What Makes A Family: A House by Kevin Henkes

It all begins with...


This one seems simple--but geometically it is more complex than it seems. It's square, with an rectangle for a door and chimney, a circular window and doorknob, and a trapezoidical roof with with overlapping oval tiles. Its door and chimney are a dusty blue, its round window is a pale blue, and the grass is green. There are parallel lines vertically in its shape AND horizontally in its siding and roof.

It's more complex than we might think.

And Kevin Henkes' latest book for the youngest, is not exactly simplistic. It begins as a "concept" book, helping preschoolers practice their shapes and colors, and the celebrated author-illustrator moves seamlessly on to counting. But when an iconic sun and birds appear, concepts of time appear in "morning" and while two birds rest of the roof, young readers are asked to count the number of birds in flight. A similar page for the house at night identifies and counts the moon and stars.


The House in rain is pictured with countable clouds and puddles, stressing comparison words like "biggest" and "smallest." The House in snow is next with new snowflakes appearing among raindrops until the house is heavy with snowfall.

The scene is set when Director Henkes calls ACTION!, and a family of five old fashioned Playskool-like people appears with dog and cat following behind.


It takes something really special to make the HOUSE a HOME in Caldecott and Newbery Award-winning author-illustrator, Kevin Henkes' latest, A House (Greenwillow Books, 2021, as Henkes melds the concrete shapes and numbers of the preschool curriculum with the feelings that bring a house alive to be a family home, with flowers up front, a dog in the yard, familiar faces at the window. and yes, a cat on the roof.

Simple but endearing in the way of beloved author-illustrator, Tomie de Paola, this book should become a classic for preschoolers, and a lovely beginning reader for the lower grades.

Booklist remarks that this one does double duty, as it... "invites readers to actively participate in the story, presenting questions about colors and shapes, which quickly become more complex considerations about the locations of objects, visual action elements, time of day, and size comparisons. . . . What started as a fun, interactive visual exercise ends up with a gentle message about family and what truly makes a house a home.”

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