Which of Kevin Henkes’ characters have you met? Lilly? Chester? Owen? or maybe it’s that guy, Wendell? No matter which you met first, you are sure to agree that they make reading fun. Today, I’d like to share what I love most about Kevin Henkes books and how I’ve used them in my classroom for teaching specific skills.
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
Of Kevin Henkes books, I’d have to say that Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is my favorite. You can’t help be read this book and try to be a teacher like Mr. Slinger, right? Well, I may not have the “cool factor”, but connecting with kids in a special way is the point of this book. I just love Mr. Slinger’s Lightbulb Lab and the special way he greets his students (With a “Howdy!”). I love how he asks his students to sit in a semi-circle and uses other rich vocabulary to ignite the learning of his students.
In my classroom, this book is perfect for teaching character traits, character change, and author’s craft. As the story is shared, the teacher can model finding text evidence of traits and model how we look to character words, behaviors, and feelings to infer character traits. Author’s craft is demonstrated through text examples, plot, and illustrations. Additionally, students can reflect on the themes in the book and share important things we as teachers should know about them. Lilly and Mr. Slinger have a wonderful relationship, and relationships can greatly motivate kids. Through writing extensions, we can learn what’s important to our students.
A Weekend with Wendell
Another favorite of mine is A Weekend with Wendell. Character development is one skill you can teach with this book because Wendell is a spitfire character that your students will enjoy discussing. He’s a bully at the beginning of the story, and your kids can see how Sophie turns the tables on the bully and also shifts the story to show character change.
This book also is a great example of how to be a polite guest in someone else’s home. Wendell isn’t exactly a polite guest. In fact, Sophie’s parents indicate at the end that he won’t be welcomed back! Eek!
If you need to teach comparisons across multiple texts, Kevin Henkes’ books are great for teaching that as the majority of his books have common mouse characters.
If you’re a primary teacher, then your students will remember what it was like to start school and leave behind their favorite “lovey”. Well, Owen does not want to leave his blanket behind…ever. Over time, his blanket shows it’s age, and it’s time to go to school.
So how can this book be used for teaching? Well, as we look at this book, we might work on sequencing and plot development, and it’s also a great example of problem solving. This book is a great beginning of the year choice as students reflect on starting school and their past school experiences. Included in this unit is a First Day of School Class Book, so you can have your students write about their first sample about your first day.
Another great beginning of school book is Chrysanthemum. If you have students with long names or unique names, then Chrysanthemum is the perfect book to give value to all of your students.
Believe it or not, this is a very vocabulary rich book, so your kids will certainly learn new words. It is also a wonderful choice for making connections and plot development. Additionally, I love using it as a springboard for helping my kids introduce themselves to the rest of the class. Your kids can do a little research on what their name means or where the name came from. They can share all of their favorites too. There is a planner included as well as a class book with boy pages and girl pages. You can check it out in the previews below.
The last in my collection is Wemberly Worried, and like Owen, Wemberly is anxious about everything, and when she goes to school, it is nearly a disaster. Who knew that she’d find her clone in her classroom!
With this book, you can certainly use it to drive discussion about things your students are concerned about and write about these worries as a way to work through them.
Another way to use this book is to work on characterization with it. In the story, we meet Wemberly’s new friend, Jewel who has a stuffed friend that she brings to school too. The girls have much in common, but have differences too.
In addition to these five titles, there are quite a few others I love by Kevin Henkes. Here are the title:
- Sheila Rae, The Brave
- Chester’s Way
- Julius, Baby of the World
- Lilly’s Big Day
Whether you opt to purchase this author study bundle or not, I hope you’ll feature Kevin Henkes in your classroom. There are so many ways to use his books, and I hope I gave you a few ideas. You can also check out THIS SITE from Kevin Henkes himself. It includes his biographical information, book list, and book links and ideas.