Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Alone Time

We're very big on alone time here.  At least, I am.  And the children, either because they actually take after me, personality-wise, or because they simply parrot what they hear, claim to need their alone time, too. 

This is just fine with me.  To be honest, sometimes there is nothing better than hearing your 3-year-old reject your offers of reading her a book, playing a game with her, or doing art by saying "I need alone time now."

However, her friends don't feel the same way.  And one little girl, A, was quite upset when M said this to her recently.  (I told M she could soften the blow by adding, "But we can play together later.")  Luckily, A's mom is a preschool teacher and was not at all offended by M's words.  Better yet, she had a relevant book recommendation for me: Kevin Henkes's All Alone.

Henkes describes the joys of alone time perfectly: "When I'm alone, I hear more and see more...When I'm alone I look at myself inside and out." 

For those of you who think of Chrysanthemum, Lilly, and other mice with big personalities when you hear Henkes's name, this book will be a revelation.  With soft, delicate paintings (watercolors?), the illustrations are completely different from his bold style in those books.  The text differs dramatically too, both in tone and in its lack of plot.  Henkes certainly has more range than many children's book authors.  In addition to his mice books, he has books about nature (such as My Garden and Old Bear or A Good Day and perhaps Kitten's First Full Moon).  This one, however, is sui generis. 

My older daughter immediately noted the differences.  When I asked her which she thought came first, All Alone or the other Kevin Henkes books, particularly the ones about Chrysanthemum and Lilly, et al., she correctly guessed this one.  I wonder if this book was actually written first or merely published first.

This book is worth sitting down with, alone or with someone else who loves alone time.  I don't know any other picture books about alone time.  Do you?  And what is your favorite Kevin Henkes book?


  1. I really like that Henkes uses different illustrative styles for his books. I was reading a book by Lauren Child and wondering why, in all her books she used the same techniques so that all of her characters look exactly the same. I've noticed a lot of illustrators do this. I'm not an artist, but I would imagine it would be more freeing to not have to stick to one style all the time. Do their editors make them do this?

  2. I like Lilly, and adore the Purple Plastic Purse, but there is a big spot in my heart right now for A Good Day (I wrote about it here:

    Henkes is such an interesting writer.

    In terms of alone time, in Days with Frog and Toad, there's a story called "Alone," in which Frog goes off to be alone and Toad gets really upset. Toad goes after Frog, thinking Frog is mad at him, but learns that Frog actually wanted to be alone to appreciate his happiness with his life and with Toad as a friend. It's very sweet.

  3. Annie, thanks for the Frog and Toad recommendation. It reminds me of several George and Martha stories as well. I feel another post on this topic coming on.