Kevin Henkes

By: Lauren Shepherd

Main Idea Statement

Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin in the 60’s and 70’s, Kevin Henkes dreamed of becoming an artist and author, because he loved books and loved to draw and paint.

Synthesizing Choices for Books

  • The theme of Kevin Henkes's books is to teach children life lessons. This is the theme of his books, because he is able to translate difficult childhood transitions into stories. In addition, most of his books deal with common childhood problems, such as starting school, being teased, and getting lost. Also, Kevin once said, “Sometimes I’ll hear from a parent about how a book of mine has insinuated itself into the heart of his or her child, or how a phrase from one of my books has become part of the family’s daily jargon. I love that.”


  • The writing style of Kevin Henkes's books is to appeal to children. This is his writing style, because in some of his books he writes short sentences. Also, lots of his books have mice as main characters, which is personification. In addition, in most of his books there was a problem that children could relate to, that got resolved.

Research Summary

Kevin Henkes was born and grew up in Racine, Wisconsin with his 3 brothers and 1 sister. As a child he dreamed of becoming an author and artist, but never thought that he would become either one. A high school teacher’s encouragement was what gave him the idea to make writing his future. At age 19, his first picture book was accepted for publication while he was attending the University of Wisconsin as an art major. Ever since, he has written many beloved books and is still writing. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and children. However, he keeps childhood close by still owning some of his favorite childhood books.

Awards Won / Honors Given

  • His book Owen won a Caldecott Honor Award in 1994.

  • His book Kitten’s First Full Moon won the Caldecott Medal in 2005.

  • His novel Olive’s Ocean won a Newbery Honor in 2004.

  • He was awarded the Regina Medal in 2013 by the Catholic Library Association for his continued distinguished contribution to children’s literature.

  • The Association of Library Service to Children, (a division of the American Library Association) chose him to deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture in 2007.

Books Written

In addition to all of the picture books that Kevin wrote, Kevin also wrote quite a few novels. However, my favorite books of his are still his mouse picture books. When we were synthesizing our author's books I read Sheila Rae, the Brave and Julius, the Baby of the World. One of my favorite books of his, even though I didn't synthesize it, is Lily's Purple Plastic Shoes!
Kevin Henkes draws Lilly, one of his most beloved picture book characters