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Caldecott Award Winners

Author Rita Smith
Air Date 3/10/2005

Caldecott Award Winners Transcript

Kevin Henkes is the artist who received the 2005 Caldecott Award for his picture book Kitten’s First Full Moon. The Caldecott Award is given annually by the American Library Association to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Henkes’ book is about a kitten who sees her first full moon, thinks it is a bowl of milk and wants to have it. The kitten sticks her tongue out to lap it up, but gets a lightening bug instead. She looks up into the sky and the bowl of milk is still there, waiting. Again she attempts to reach it by springing mightily up from the top step of the porch; she fails and again she looks up and sees the bowl of milk, still waiting. After several more unsuccessful attempts to reach the moon, the kitten returns home where she finds a bowl of milk waiting for her.

Both the text and the illustrations are simple and engaging. The elegant, visually balanced cover, with the arching silver title following the curve of the moon and the kitten directly in front of the moon, establishes a relationship between the two main characters immediately. The jacket also introduces the circle motif, which repeatedly appears, both in the rounded forms in the illustrations, and in the narrative, with the kitten first being at home, then leaving home in his quest for the bowl of milk, and finally coming back home, providing a satisfying conclusion. The pictures are in black and white and the thick outlines of the illustrations are echoed in the bold sans-serif type of the text . Creamy pages and rose undertones in the illustrations add warmth to the story. Movement is suggested by the kitten as she springs from the top step, chases the moon through the garden in a series of panels, and leaps out of the boundary of the picture frame into a pond. These action pages alternate with double page spreads in which the kitten looks up and sees the moon still waiting. Ample white space here reinforces the idea of unfilled time. The repetition of the alternating action sequences and the waiting moon provide a pace and rhythm to the book that carries the reader along. There is something nostalgic about the book which reminds one of earlier children’s books illustrators, particularly Clare Turlay Newbery, a children’s book artist who worked in charcoal and published picture books about kittens in the 1930’s. Henkes admits that, as he worked on the illustrations, he thought of his work as a sort of tribute to her.1

Kitten’s First Full Moon is a simple, classic picture book with appropriately spare yet lyrical illustrations and is a worthy addition to those other 66 distinguished picture books which have been named, one a year since 1938, winners of the Randolph Caldecott Award.



Posted in Literature