Friday, April 14, 2017

Egg-stra! Egg-stra!: EGG by Kevin Henkes

Four eggs.

Pink, blue, yellow.... and green.

Three eggs begin to crack--first on one side, and then on the other. The pink one is the first to shatter.


The next three cracked eggs take their time, but one by one, a yellow bird follows, and then the blue egg hatches, wearing a chip of shell for a cap. Then each tries their wings and flies away.


The green egg remains. Clearly, this egg is not all it's cracked up to be.

The three little birds return to wait, and wait, and wait, watching over their late mate. They take a listen for activity inside. At last they go proactive. They peck and peck and peck with increasing power.

Cracks appear. and then...


Climbing out of the green shell is a little alligator. The three birds react. Yipes! Fly away! Fly away!

The little reptilian is left all by himself--all on his lonesome and feeling bad.

But the three birds are as curious as they are afraid. They fly back to check out the new guy. The strange hatchling seems harmless, so....

One by one, they venture closer, and one by one they land on his bumpy green back. He heads for the pond, and they hang on, going for a gator-ride on the quiet waters, seemingly becoming friends as the sinking sun morphs into an egg-shaped ovoid and slides low over the landscape.

Is this where the story ends? Or is there more to tell--perhaps from the reader?

Two things are true of Kevin Henkes' recent picture books: they are lovely to look at and they leave the reader wondering...., and as in his latest, Egg (Greenwillow Books, 2017), wondering what egg-zactly what happened here?

His pastel-paletted text and characters tell a sweet story of unlikely friendship, but most of Henkes' illustrations are placed within grids with four and then sixteen cells, as the Newbery and Caldecott-award winning author-illustrator keeps coming up with a different form of graphic narration. This one is no exception. Is he playing with the graphic contrast of curves and gridded squares? Is he pushing a premise that friendship can't be contained? Or both?

As in his Waiting and When Spring Comes, (see reviews here and here), Kevin Henkes captures attention with irresistible images and builds tension while making the reader tell the story in his or her own way. Here, Henkes' pages are innately lovely to look at, with images framed within a curved brown-ish frame, and arranged in almost wordless storytelling that is at a far remove from the classic spring-cum-Easter tale, one that leaves youngsters asking "what?" and "what if?" "Another stunner from Henkes, who is able to evoke so much with few words and such seemingly simple illustrations," says Kirkus. in a starred review. "Gorgeous and thought-provoking."

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