At the risk of Picture Book House becoming Ode to Kevin Henkes House, tonight I am writing about one more of his books that we can’t live without: Kitten’s First Full Moon (Greenwillow Books, 2004).
I have to.
At 2:58 p.m. today, April 25th, the moon was officially full.
My cat is curled up peacefully purring next to me on the couch.
And this afternoon, on a walk to the park, my son halted the Fisher Price fire truck he was scooting, looked up at the sky and clouds, pointed and grunted.
I knelt down, looked up too, and said, “sky, Will. Sky, and clouds. Blue sky. White clouds.”
We were there, cheek-to-cheek, taking in the universe for almost a minute before he was off and pushing to catch up to my daughter now half a block ahead.
I, however, stayed stuck in the moment with all my sentimental mom thoughts: that was it. I’ll never be able to teach him about the sky and the clouds again! I will remember back to this minute, this exact minute on the day he graduates from college! And you know what?! This is JUST like kitten in Kitten’s First Full Moon!
Little kittens, like little boys, have so much to learn about the world.
“It was kitten’s first full moon.
When she saw it, she thought,
There’s a little bowl of milk in the sky.
And she wanted it.”
“So she closed her eyes
and stretched her neck
and opened her mouth and licked.”
“But kitten only ended up
with a bug on her tongue.
“Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting.”
And so kitten sets off on a series of misadventures to try to catch her “bowl of milk.”
She stumbles down steps. “Poor Kitten!”
She chases the bowl of milk without getting closer. “Poor kitten!”
She climbs a tree without getting closer. “Poor Kitten!”
From the tree she sees an even bigger bowl of milk in the pond and so she jumps.
“Poor Kitten! She was wet and sad and tired and hungry.”
Although Kitten never does catch this particular bowl of milk, there is one on the porch when she gets home, “just waiting for her.”
Which means we go back to the beginning and start reading the book all over again.
Kitten’s First Full Moon has been in my daughter’s bedtime basket for at least two years. Henke’s unique rhythm and pacing calm even the most sleep-resistant child (mine).
For his black and white illustrations, Henkes won the 2005 Caldecott.
And for a long time, that’s all that it needed to be for my daughter, a beautiful book to listen to and look at.
It was just a few months ago, a few months before her third birthday, that I thought to ask, “Katy, what is the ‘little bowl of milk in the sky?’” and we’ve continued to talk about how kitten mistakes the moon for a bowl of milk the first time she sees it every reading since.
And so what was my text-to-self connection on our afternoon walk today, exactly?
Today my son, like Kitten, saw, really saw, something up in the sky for the first time. And just like this book, that’s awesome.