Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Penny and Her Song

Kevin Henkes's picture books were well-thumbed in our house back when my daughter was a child. She especially loved Julius, the Baby of the World, which features Lilly, a mouse child who does not take well to the arrival of a baby brother. As Lilly puts it: "If he was a number, he would be zero." I spent hours reading this story to my daughter, and later, when she was school age, she'd laboriously copy the text in her childish hand. What I found amazing about her dedication to this work of sibling rivalry is that she's an only child.

Fast forward twenty years. Penny and Her Song is Henkes's latest book and it's an easy reader. Penny, the story's young heroine is, like Lilly, a mouse child, but with two baby siblings. While this would have driven Lilly around the bend, Penny takes their existence in stride. Where Lilly was boisterous and outrageous, Penny is quiet and resourceful. She comes home from school bursting to share her song with her parents. Except she can't. The babies are asleep. Now Lilly would have thrown a tantrum on the spot. Not Penny. She goes to her room and attempts to sing the song to herself and to her glass animals. Neither does the trick. She needs a proper audience. After dinner Penny finally gets her chance and after listening, her parents and the babies join the show, singing until they are all tuckered out and ready for bed.

When I started the story I fully expected Penny to act up when she didn't get her way. How refreshing that Henkes, without moralizing, shows his readers the benefits of using self-control and patience. Short, direct sentences combined with Henkes's always delightful illustrations give us a winning easy reader children will want to read again and again. And, who knows, maybe even copy the text word for word.

Watch Kevin Henkes as he talks about Penny.

Penny and Her Song
by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 32 pages
Published: February 2012


  1. I like it better when they throw a tantrum. More true to life, at least as far as I remember.


  2. We just checked this out from the library, and my two small boys love it. They've been singing Penny's song (to the tune I made up)! We love Kevin Henkes