“There were five of them. And they were waiting.” Thus opens Kevin Henkes’ latest picture book, featuring an unseen’s child five patient toys, all of whom sit in a windowsill and watch the world go by. There’s an owl, waiting for the moon; a pig with an umbrella, waiting for some rain; a bear with a kite, waiting for wind; a puppy on a sled, who longs for some snow; and a content rabbit who “wasn’t waiting for anything in particular. He just liked to look out the window and wait.”
Everything about this book’s appearance is soft. Henkes uses a pastel-dominated palette, delicate pinks and blues and greens, on uncluttered spreads laid out on cream-colored paper. Curved, rounded lines are the name of the game, hinting at the security and comfort young children crave. Despite this softness, there’s loss and tragedy—a new addition to the windowsill, a china elephant “from far away,” falls and breaks. And there are scary moments, as when lightning cracks in the sky, and observant readers see that Henkes varies the expressions on the toys’ mostly unchanging faces: The owl squints in fear, and the pig’s eyes are wide and round.
The world beyond the window is their stage, and the wordless spreads really shine. One features frosted panes; another has fireworks; and yet another reveals a rainbow. The five toys watch in wonder, “but mostly they waited.” Children undoubtedly spend a lot of time waiting, since they’re often at the whim of the adults in their lives. But despite their dreaming and waiting, life tends to be full of surprises, and it is for the toys, too. One day, a cat with patches shows up and joins the gang. The cat has a secret, one that will delight young children.
Good things come to those who wait, as they say. And this child-friendly tale of wonder and anticipation is a very good thing.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.