Waiting by Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes’ book Waiting (2015, Greenwillow Books) is one of the books I picked up at The Storybook Shoppe about a month ago. A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, Waiting is a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book about the power of patience and the grandeur of waiting to see what life has in store.

Henkes tells the story of five toys on a windowsill. Whereas some of the toys have particular things for which they wait, the rabbit with the stars around his tall neck is not really waiting for anything specific. Sometimes they get what they are waiting for. Sometimes they are visited by friends. Sometimes these visitors stay and sometimes they leave.

So this book is one that I had to reread. Did I get it? What is this about the toys on the windowsill? I think you can read this book on multiple levels, which is the sign of a gem of a children’s book. So maybe this book is just about toys waiting on the windowsill. Maybe we see indications of their owner by the gifts that are left and the other toys that join and leave. Or maybe this book is about life – and death – and how we are all waiting for death – although there are many beautiful things to see and wait for during our lives.  And then again maybe the book is about the awesomeness that can come from waiting, especially in this world that we all seem to be rushing through. I feel that in many ways I am still waiting to figure out the book’s meaning, and I’m okay with that.

In short, I love these things about the book:

(1) It exists at multiple levels. Books that can mean different things at different times or to different people are wonderful. They teach children to think and ponder and the book’s meaning can continue to change as the child changes.

(2) The illustrations. I love the idea of an author-illustrator because I feel that there is a certain sense that these illustrations are the ones Henkes had in his head as he penned the words to the book and there’s something magical about that. There are even wordless pages, which I love.

(3) It’s sparse – in a good way. This is not a wordy book. It is not a book overwhelming one with words or bright colors or tanks. Its color scheme and word count match the text’s mood.

Let me know what you think of Waiting in the comments below!

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