Kevin Henkes On Children’s Literature

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Wisconsin can be proud to claim award-winning children’s book author Kevin Henkes. Larry Meiller visits with Henkes to discuss what makes for good children’s literature, how to read with kids, and the recent Newbery Honor given for “The Year of Billy Miller.”

Featured in this Show

  • Author Shares What Makes A Children’s Book Great

    Whether we’re 8 or 80 years old, most people can easily name a favorite children’s book. Really well-written and illustrated children’s literature can touch people’s hearts and makes a lifelong impression.

    Wisconsin native and resident Kevin Henkes is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books, including “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” “Owen,” and most recently, “The Year of Billy Miller,” which was awarded a Newbery Honor.

    What makes for a great children’s book? Henkes said, “Emotional truth. I think that’s pretty much all that matters.”

    The genre isn’t important, he said.

    “You can have a fantasy story, you can have a realistic story, you can have a funny story, you can have a scary story, but if it doesn’t have emotional truth, I don’t think it will fly. I don’t think it will last,” he said.

    For Henkes, emotional truth means “it has to make sense.” He explained that “the way characters act has to be believable. It has to be consistent, unless there’s some major plot change, but it’s got to make sense. It’s got to resonate with the reader.”

    Having great books in one thing, but making sure that they reach children is a whole different effort. Henkes shared that he was a parent who read to his children in utero and continued much later than many families do. That included a half-hour of reading a novel while the kids were eating their breakfast.

    Henkes treasures that experience.

    “It was really great. We kept a list in the hallway of books that we’d read, and it’s really wonderful to go back and look at them,” he said.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Kevin Henkes Guest

Related Stories