by Kevin Henkes

Analysis by Maelin Long

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Owen, by Kevin Henkes, is a story about a little mouse named Owen. Ever since he was a baby, he has carried Fuzzy his favorite blanket with him everywhere. Now that he is getting bigger, his nosy neighbor thinks Fuzzy needs a new home. But Owen won't hear of it. With school approaching, his parents must think of something. With the perfect idea, Owen's mother makes everyone happy in the end.

Literary Elements

When we read, we love to connect to the story. As readers, we do that in different ways, either through the characters, plot, or even the setting of a story. The little mouse Owen and his dilemma with his favorite blanket, in this story, is one such connection. It is a relatable scenario for any child with a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or even pacifier. They don't want to get rid of this item and this story can help them through their own transition. The illustrations throughout the story enhance the overall theme and make it even easy to make a connection. In every picture, little Owen is somewhere to be found with Fuzzy, reminding us of the conflict. His expressions are easily seen and reflect the current mood of the story. The pictures from page page allow the story to continue moving forward and advancing the plot. The stage is set on each page with a new place in Owen's life, whether it be his home or backyard. The entire story is reflected through the illustrations in so many ways.

Physical Features

Even before you open the book, the reading experience has begun. The book itself is the perfect size for this story. It's not too big and not too small. The rectangular shape fits in a child's lap or parent's hand perfectly. The best start to story time. The cover is interesting enough to catch your attention but not give away the story. It peaks your curiosity and then allows you to fully enjoy the story and experience you gain. Then as you open the book, the story has already begun. With a detailed cover and front matter, you can already see Owen's adventures with his blanket. Repeats of Owen are placed along the front and back pages beginning and wrapping up his story nicely.
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Visual Elements

Throughout the book, many different visual elements are used to create the perfect story. Colors, shapes, lines, and points of view in the illustrations are the most prominent. A plethora of colors is used throughout the pictures, mostly in pastel shades. This brings a lighter feel to the story, especially with the continued use of yellow. Owen's favorite blanket, Fuzzy, is a bright yellow color. This signifies the happiness and warmth that he brings to Owen. This color even bleeds onto the front and back pictures, bringing that happiness as the overall feel for the story. The other combinations of colors show the fun, adventurous life that Owen has with Fuzzy. One specific page uses darker shades of purple throughout the image. This helps the reader feel as if it's night as Owen falls to sleep. It gives a very peaceful, serene feeling. Many shapes are used in the illustrations also.His blanket is a square which evokes a feeling of stability, for Owen and even the audience. Another shape that is used is the circle. On one page, when his mom finishes transforming his blanket, the resulting handkerchiefs are shown falling in a circle. This circle shape shows comfort which is exactly what the handkerchiefs are meant for. They are Owen's comfort object. The color of yellow is also continued here which also represents his happiness of still having his favorite Fuzzy. Another element used strategically throughout is the use of lines. Diagonal/squiggly lines are seen on about every page showing the movement of the characters and most importantly the blanket. You can imagine how the blanket moves around with Owen in each picture. One last prominent visual element used to enhance the story is the different perspectives in the illustrations. In one picture, the readers view is looking down on Owen. The words on the page are his parents talking to him. This picture allows the reader to feel like the parents. Other pictures are looking from the outside in giving the reader a full view of the situation, including the parents' reactions. All of these elements enhance the pictures giving the story more meaning. The feelings evoked and different ways to see the story allow the reader to have a well-rounded experience of the story.

Artistic Style

The overall artistic style for the book, Owen, is cartoon. This isn't over the top, exaggerated, but more realistic cartoons. The pictures are very simple and straightforward. The emotions and movements of the characters are emphasized through many different facial expressions and the different positions the characters are drawn in. This style allows for a fuller story. Without too much going on in the illustrations, the story can shine through easily. The realistic feeling in the cartoons also allows for the readers to connect to Owen and his situation. By using realistic cartoons, the illustrations contribute even more to the overall story.
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Artistic Media

Kevin Henkes uses a very old-fashioned artistic media when illustrating his books. He first starts by sketching the drawings and when those are complete, he inks over them. Because he wants to experiment with colors, he does several ink drawings of each illustration. When he finally decides on the colors he wants, he then paints the final picture. This artistry used gives the illustrations a very classic, cartoon feel. Children and adults alike can enjoy the simple, yet complex illustrations. The story is a very familiar experience for readers and the familiarity of the pictures enhances this, making a wonderfully written picturebook.

Elements of Illustration

Also involved with illustrations, is the arrangement of the pictures in the book. This then affects the framing of the drawings, the narrative sequence, and page turns. In Owen, the pictures are arranged very nicely. There are different numbers of pictures on each page, but they still have a uniformity to the arrangement. The pictures are framed with a black border with the text centered under or above them. There are no pages with full bleed images which works for this story. Each new set of text is shown in a singular picture or collage of smaller pictures. They are like snapshots of Owen and Fuzzy's adventures. Because of this, the pages are like a white frame to each illustration. The narrative text is put into the white spacing. These narrations are accompanied by the pictures in very chronological order. When multiple things are mentioned in the text, multiple snapshots are shown, almost like a scrapbook nicely placed on the page. Because of the effectiveness of the arrangement of text and illustration, the pages turn rather quickly allowing for the story to flow smoothly. All in all, the illustrations and text are arranged perfectly to add to the overall story.

Interplay of Text and Illustrations

The key to a great picturebook is the interplay between the text and illustrations. In Owen, the text and images work in beautiful harmony to tell the story of Owen and his favorite blanket, Fuzzy. With a less detailed text, the illustrations fill in those gaps. The expression of the characters add to the narration. The depictions of when Fuzzy is "essential" really make the story come to life. The words on the page don't have much meaning until the pictures are seen. Instead of wondering why Owen "sucked and hugged and twisted" his blanket, readers can clearly see it in the illustrations. Just as the text needs the illustrations, the illustrations need the text. If you just saw, Owen's father putting his blanket in a jar, it wouldn't make much sense. But with the explanation of the vinegar trick in the text, it all comes together. The story is given breath with the interplay between the text and illustrations.


In order to produce a high quality picturebook, many elements must be included. These include artistic style, visual elements, interplay between text and illustration, and even the physical elements of a book (like size and shape of the tangible book). By considering all of these elements and incorporating them into his book, Kevin Henkes has provided "an absolutely wonderful, positively perfect, especially terrific" children's picturebook. He has taken a familiar child experience and paired it with classic drawings to make a book that will leave a lasting impression.
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Owen Cover - http://www.kevinhenkes.com/book/owen-4/
Book Pictures - Self-taken
Artistic Media - A Q&A with Kevin Henkes. nd. Retrieved from http://www.kevinhenkes.com/meet-kevin-henkes/author-interview/.
Elements - Lukens et al. (2013). Children's Literature. NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.