Henkes, K. (2000). Wemberly worried. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Wemberly is a young mouse who is constantly worried. She worries about everything from loosing her favorite doll, “Petal” to worrying about the possibility of shrinking in the bathtub. The main story element used is characterization. In fact, the characterization drives the plot through the author thoroughly detailing the Wemberly’s worries leading up to her biggest worry, which is starting school. The author carries out the characterization through the illustrations which describes the main character’s appearance and particularly the constant expression of worry on her face. The author explains the character’s thoughts through her actions and dialogue in the story. As an example, on two pages before Wemberly goes to school, there are no illustrations; just various sized fonts where Wemberly’s multiple worries about school are displayed. Even the story’s resolution is delivered through the author describing how Wemberly felt when she met another student in school.
In comparison with the book Owen, described in my previous blog, the artistic media and font are detailed on the title page. The artistic media is watercolor paint with black pen and the illustrations are in the surreal artistic style as Kevin Henkes other books described in this blog. The difference being that a different font was used. The visual element that I noticed that was different from Owen, was that author and illustrator developed his use of lines and shapes from the previous book. Particularly, I noticed that Owen was published in 1993 and the illustrations were mostly framed with square boxes. However, this book was not published until 2000 and the picture frames used came in multiple shapes, such as circles, ovals and even a door frame in one picture. I also noticed that Kevin Henkes selectively used the visual element of composition in both books. When focusing on a main character’s emotions to develop the characterization, the illustrations included little or no composition. When the author and illustrator wanted to focus on the actions of the characters, he would use composition to show the relationship between the characters and other objects in the illustration. I wonder if the reader would have focused on the visual display of the character’s emotion if the author and illustrator had not chose to selectively use the visual element of composition.
I see the value in this story as a book to use at the beginning of the school year with young children in easing their fears about school, since the character finds a resolution to her conflict which is a common resolution when children begin school. However, I did not find this story as enjoyable to read as some of Mr. Henkes’ other books because of the lack of plot. Furthermore, the author and illustrator takes a lot of time describing the character; however her actions and mood seem to change just once in the story making it less than desirable choice to teach characterization. Yet, this story does lend itself perfectly to our comprehension strategy of the week, “Most Important Word”. The most important word from this story would definitely be “worried”. Moreover, students would have multiple real-life examples in this story to use to understand the semantics of the word “worried” and the word appears throughout the book, which would provide multiple opportunities to practice and recognize the word while reading since it is included on the Dolch High-Frequency Word List.