Henkes, K. (1993). Owen. New York: Greenwillow Books.
In this fictional story, the main character is a mouse named “Owen”. The story includes a progressive plot where a background is given about Owen loving his fuzzy blanket that he has had since he was a baby. The plot develops through a neighbor offering strategies to Owen’s parents on how to wean Owen off needing his blanket. As the strategies offered are unsuccessful, Owen has a “person vs. person” conflict, where he constantly finds a way to overcome the strategies his parents’ attempt. The climax of the story comes when Owen’s mother has an idea of compromise which leads to the resolution of the conflict. I wonder though if Owen would have eventually found an intrinsic motivation to stop carrying his blanket if his mother had not intervened with a compromise?
The illustrations in this picture book are created in the surreal artistic style, and were recognized with a Caldecott Honor in 1994. All of the illustrations are realistic scenes in a child’s life, except the characters are mice acting as humans. One feature of the book that I found interesting was the title page. On this page not only are the author and publishing credits listed, yet a book summary and information about the artwork of the book are located. Within this information it says, “Watercolor paints and a black pen were used for full color art. The text type is Goudy Modern”. In other words the author and publisher chose to list the artistic media and font used in the book. Upon closer inspection of all three Kevin Henkes books that I acquired, I realized that this information is listed on the title page specific to each book, which I will discuss further in later blogs. The watercolor conveys a whimsical mood indicating a story from a child’s life. The lines and shapes used in the illustrations are utilized as outlines of objects in the pictures and to show different expressions on the characters’ faces during the story.
I would recommend this story for specific uses in the classroom. Specifically, I would use this story as a way to introduce the basic elements of plot since there is a clear conflict, climax and resolution. In addition, I would utilize this story to teach younger children behavioral expectations as a part of growing up. Even though the conflict is a “person vs. person” conflict, the main character also experiences a “person vs. self” conflict in his attempts to realize that he does not need his blanket all the time to be happy, which is a conflict that many young children face as they mature. When considering the comprehension strategy of the week, “Most Important Word”, in this story it would be the word, “fuzzy”. “Fuzzy” is the name of Owen’s blanket and is displayed throughout the book. I can envision using this word to demonstrate the phonics rule stating that “y” makes the long /e/ sound at the end of two syllable words. This could be extended by students finding other words in this story that follow that same phonic rule such as, “baby” and “carry”.