cover image Little Houses

Little Houses

Kevin Henkes, illus. by Laura Dronzek. Greenwillow, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-296572-1

Married team Henkes and Dronzek (Summer Song) create a story about a child with light brown skin and black pigtails, whose visit to a grandparents’ small beach house allows time for wondering and questioning. Together, the child and grandmother walk along the beach every morning, looking for shells. “Grandma reminds me that shells are little houses. And that gets me thinking.” Dronzek paints the shells as the child sees them, up close, dwelling on their colors and forms. “But who lived here? Where is it now? Is its ghost still inside the curved walls?” This thread of inquiry turns from small environments to a large one—what’s inside the depths of the ocean. “Fish as big as cars, creatures whose names I don’t know, lost toys, lost coins.” The grandparents’ quiet, affirming presences allow their grandchild space to contemplate. “The world is so big,” says Grandpa, smiling, “and there is so much to know. And someday you’ll know it all.” For now, though, the child treasures a collection of shells, little houses. Henkes writes with quiet grace that avoids preciousness, while Dronzek’s acrylic seashore-centered spreads capture one person encountering the natural world with curiosity and reverence. Ages 4–8. (May)