School for Children

Author and Illustrator Kevin Henkes Speaks to Middle School Students

Posted by Kate Marcus on September 18, 2013

 KevinHenkes

Author and illustrator Kevin Henkes spoke to Middle School students and the world at large in a webcast in mid-September, reflecting on his life immersed in children’s books and talking about his new book (his 47th), "The Year of Billy Miller." Mr. Henkes, creator of classics such as "Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse," "Chester’s Way," "Julius, the Baby of the World," and Caldecott Medal winner "Kitten’s First Full Moon," opened his discussion with humorous photos of himself growing up in Wisconsin. Photos of his book jackets, with images of Lilly, Owen and other favorite mice drew applause and cheers from the Middle School worthy of a rock star.

Mr. Henkes described how he could not remember a time when he didn’t love to draw.  He told the students and adults that he finds inspiration in the world around him. A young girl playing with her purse at an airport became Lilly. A childhood neighbor, a girl named Sheila Rae, was brave. She became… "Sheila Rae, the Brave." His own tendency to worry shows up in "Wemberly Worried."  

Much of his writing process happens before he actually writes. Thinking about the story is the first step.  After he has worked out the plot, he writes, but not on a computer. He uses a typewriter.  His process for illustrating the stories starts with pencil sketches. The sketches are traced over with pen and filled in with watercolor. 

The talk ended with the message that once he is finished with a book, it’s really the beginning. That’s when the reader gets to enjoy it.

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