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Kevin Henkes
ISBN 9780061964176
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2011.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: change family growing-up junonia kevin-henkes seashore

by Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes’s (Sun and Spoon) story of the winter in which Alice Rice turns 10 sneaks up on you with its emotional impact. Alice and her parents travel to Sanibel Island in Florida each winter, leaving “cold and dreary” Wisconsin behind. The heroine thinks of these February friends as “part of her family.” But right away, Alice knows things will be different this time. The Wishmeiers’ grandchildren aren’t coming, for one thing. Then their friend Helen gets snowbound in New York. Worst of all, Kate, a college friend of Alice’s mother, arrives with a boyfriend and his 6-year-old daughter, Mallory. So much for having Kate all to herself.

Henkes’s novel captures universal feelings of childhood through one child’s unique experiences. As Alice counts the minutes until Kate’s arrival, she decides “this kind of waiting—waiting for something good and bad tangled together—should be given its own special name.” The author betrays Alice’s feelings about Kate’s six-year-old traveling companion through his description: she “had a round face, round cheeks, round eyes, round knees, and a round nose. When Alice looked at her, she saw circles.” Henkes plants clues to Mallory’s erratic moods for Alice to piece together, but only later does she realize she’s jumped to unfair conclusions. Through his insightful exploration of moments that feel monumental to the child experiencing them, Henkes lets his readers know they have company on this often confusing journey to growing up.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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