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Owen by Kevin Henkes Children's Book Review
Hardcover edition, English
Owen is one of Kevin Henkes' popular children's picture books, a Caldecott Honor book, and features a cute little mouse with a deep attachment to his special blankie.
Owen is a cute little mouse with a special comfort object, his yellow blanket 'Fuzzy', which Owen loves with all his heart. So naturally, when Owen's parents try to separate him from his Precious (think Lord of the Rings), they meet with a significant, though predictable resistance. This is a story that the whole family can relate to.
Blanket-loving, bottle-loving, and pacifier-loving tots may just react to this story with gleeful enthusiasm, and Owen's open defiance of his parents' three different attempts to remove the blanket are very very funny. Parents can forgive Henkes for Owen's shenanigans though, because ultimately the happy resolution to this story offers a positive picture of parents finding a creative answer to the age old problem of how to get a child to "grow up" and give up a favorite comfort item.
Owen takes Fuzzy everywhere: to bed, to the movies, to the dentist, and anywhere else that Owen feels the slightest bit of anxiety. But Owen will be starting school soon, and he can't bring Fuzzy along. So Fuzzy must go. Owen's mother agrees, Owen's father agrees, and the nosy neighbor, Mrs. Tweezers agrees, but Owen apparently didn't get the memo.
Owen's author Kevin Henkes approaches the topic with warmth, humor, and a child's point of view. The opening lines describe Owen's ardor for his blanket:
"Owen had a fuzzy yellow blanket.
He'd had it since he was a baby.
He loved it with all his heart."
Of course, Henkes points out, Fuzzy no longer is fuzzy, it is just worn out. The blanket has many of the qualities of an imaginary friend. It goes where Owen goes, it wears reminders of all of Owen's activities, and it is dirty and thoroughly and completely well-loved. (Or from an adult viewpoint, completely disgusting.)
Owen isn't just a story about a recalcitrant preschooler, though. Owen's parents experience peer pressure from the nagging neighbor, Mrs. Tweezers, who makes intrusive suggestions about how to remove the blanket. Mrs. Tweezers' old school attitude and judgemental-sounding suggestions remind us all that sometimes parents' mark milestones in their children's development for the wrong reasons. Just like children, parents can experience peer pressure when it comes to their parenting decisions. These subtle, though humorous observations into some of the universal truths of parenting are what mark Kevin Henkes storytelling genius. Not only is this book an entertaining story, but it also offers up some gentle guidance for parents who need it.
Henkes has a gift for imbuing his characters with the innocence and energy of childhood. His storytelling style is matter of fact, with a droll delivery and a punchy turn of phrase that exposes the deeper comic truths of parenting. But his child characters have a believable innocent quality that is a delight to read. Owen is true Kevin Henkes magic, and Henke's title character brings just enough defiance tempered with preschool angst to render a very entertaining story.
In one scene, Mrs. Tweezers suggests the parents try "the blanket fairy," so Owen's mother and father sit down with him and tell him to just put the blanket under his pillow, and a wondrous prize will await him in the morning instead. Owen stuffs the blanket deep into his pajama pants, and announces in the morning that the blanket fairy didn't come. "No kidding!" responds his mother. "No wonder!" replies his father.
Owen's parents' resolution to the blanket problem is creative. When they finally choose to ignore the meddling remarks of their nosy neighbor, they are able to come up with a compromise that allows Owen to continue enjoying Fuzzy in smaller doses. In short, this story manages to give everyone what they want: for the children, active resistance, and for the grown-ups, a solution to a perplexing, though common childhood dilemma.
Other Kevin Henkes Book Reviews
- Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
The title character of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, like Ian Falconer's Olivia, is irrepressible, exuberant, confident, and theatrical. When Lilly's favorite teacher takes away her favorite object, Lilly reassesses their relationship.
- Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes Children's Book Review
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is one of the all-star children's books of the children's literary world. Chrysanthemum is a cute little mouse with a very big name and an even bigger problem: relentless teasing!
More of My Favorite Children's Books
If you share my passion for children's literature, or even if you are just looking for a good story selection, please check out more of my favorite children's stories:
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett · A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams · Babies by Gyo Fujikawa · Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin and Eric Carle · Charley Harper's ABCs by Charlie Harper · Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons · Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes · Daughter of a King by Rachel Ann Nunes · Excuse Me! By Lisa Kopelke · Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat · Harry and The Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach · Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson · I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll · I'd Choose You by John Trent · Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback · King of Kings by Susan Hill · Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman · Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes · Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney · Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney · Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle · No David! by David Shannon · Olivia by Ian Falconer · Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier · Snowballs by Lois Ehlert · So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury · Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch · The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone · The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle · The King With Six Friends by Jay Williams · The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman · The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges · The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell · The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy · The Red Shoes a Fairy Tale by Gloria Fowler and Sun Young Yoo · The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats · Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel · Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White · Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak · Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits