Alice is about to turn ten, and she has hopes that are dear to her heart for this special birthday…

junonia.jpgJunonia
by Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 978 0 061 96419 0

Let it first be known that I am a massive fan of Kevin Henkes’ picture books, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never red one of his middle grade novels before. Yes, he does have a lovely way with language, but I’ve always been extremely fond of his little mice, and wasn’t sure what to expect in a novel, I suppose. I needn’t have worried, though, for his love of words and his manner of capturing a mood or feeling translates beautifully into a longer book.

In this case, the story of about Alice, whose family is arriving in Florida for their annual winter visit at the same place, and she looks forward both to seeing all the same people and to something special happening for her tenth birthday – an important birthday, she thinks. While there, Alice experiences some moments of complete joy mingled with a handful of disappointments. These are the things that seem small in retrospect, but to a ten year old, are enormous, and the book follows her ups and downs with great understanding.

It’s a quiet book, one for a quieter child, rather than one who needs action and plot to stay interested, but it is a little gem for the right child. Also gemlike? The version I am reading is the hardcover version (ISBN: 9780061964176), and it must be said that if you are someone who appreciates books as physical objects, it might be worth the extra few dollars in this case to buy this version. The book design is simple, but lovely, with thick, creamy paper, a shape slightly more square than normal, and Henkes’ own line drawings printed in blue at the head of each chapter, as well as at the beginning of the book, where a little guide to shells has been rendered by the author. Again, this isn’t something that every child will care about, but some kids will just feel  the difference that these things make, and how they make the book feel just that little bit more special. This is a perfect gift for just that kid.

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