Time for a classic, well at least a modern classic. And a Caldecott winner. I had never read Kevin Henkes' very popular book Kitten's First Full Moon until this week. The book has become an instant classic since its publication and I figured I simply had to read it. I've loved Henkes' other work and was fully prepared for a wonderful story.
The book follows Kitten who sees a big bowl of milk in the sky (aka the moon) and decides she wants to drink it. She leaps from the steps to try to catch it but only tumbles onto the sidewalk. Then she follows it farther and farther away from the house trying to catch it. When she tries to climb to the top of the tree to grab it, she only ends up stuck and scared. But then she sees a gigantic bowl of milk in the pond (moon's reflection) and jumps for it. And of course ends up soaking wet. She heads back home still hungry and finds a small bowl of milk (this time actually milk) waiting for her on the porch.
This is such a simple but cute story. I'm sure I've heard the premise before but I love the mistakes that Kitten makes when trying to grab the moon. When she first sees the moon she sticks out her tongue to lick it and catches a lightening bug. It is the sweet humor and the repeated phrase of "Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting", that makes you want to turn the page to see what new adventure the kitten will get into. I loved the repeated "Poor Kitten" that gets changed at the end after Kitten finds the milk. The wording is short, making for a very nice quick read aloud, a great bedtime story.
The illustrations are done in black and white with various shades of grey bordering on purple. Henkes uses thick black outlines for everything to make them stand out wonderfully against the different greys. The images are created using gouache and colored pencil but the lack of color is what I find so intriguing. It is rare to see a book in black, white, and grey anymore. But in this case it gives the impression of what things look like in the moonlight. Only various shades appear in the dark and this book mirrors that well. Henkes uses the moon's reflection on the little white cat very effectively with some sections of the cat in shadow. The shapes are simple, the flowers just little circles on stalks, the pond just big circle swirls to represent waves. The images, like the words, are simple and sweet. I loved this little adventure tale. Well worth a read.