The ocean has always been a place of solace for me, water baby that I am. The same can be said for a young girl named Alice, whose family goes to a beach house in Florida every winter. Each year, Alice celebrates her birthday while on vacation, and this year is especially special: She’s turning ten years old, double-digits! She’s excited beyond belief, but that emotion quickly tapers off as she realizes that this year won’t be the same as previous ones. First, some older kids can no longer come on vacation due to a heightened course load at school, then her favorite artist gets stranded due to a snow storm. To top it all off, her favorite aunt shows up—but with her new boyfriend and his five-year-old brat, Mallory. This will definitely be a summer for Alice to remember, but will those memories be good ones or tarnish her love of a place she’s always loved?
Kevin Henkes has a beautiful way of writing. His sentences are so precious, so descriptive, that I just wanted to scoop them up and let them sit on my tongue to melt like drops of sugar. He’s good at creating a picture with words that evokes the perfect image in the mind’s eye. He’s best-known for his picture books, especially KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON, which won the Caldecott in 2005, along with several other prizes. His art in JUNONIA is whimsical and light; in the finished product, the illustration that begins each chapter reminds me of a pen-and-ink drawing, and each image is bursting with images of a beach vacation.
The heart of JUNONIA is very delicate. There isn’t a lot of action in this short middle-grade novel. Alice is very introspective for a girl her age, which some readers in the 7 - 12 demographic might have trouble relating to. They might get bored and put the novel down. At the same time, the book has a soothing quality to it destined to appeal to readers who get scared by a lot of big events and not knowing what comes next. On top of that, Henkes sneaks a powerful lesson into the pages of his book about the power of sharing, as well as the way everything changes, but not always in a bad way. Alice does a lot of growing up in this book, which ends on just the right note.
I LOVE this cover. This is my favorite of all the images in JUNONIA. I love the way Alice is looking out to sea, the wind blowing in her hair and the gulls soaring in the sky. It reminds me of her family’s tradition each year to see the first pelican, first dolphin, etc. I also love the way the cover is decorated with junonia shells. Not only does it match the book’s title, but it features Alice’s greatest wish: to find a rare junonia on the beach. She’s obsessed with junonias and thinks about them constantly. I love the way there are junonias EVERYWHERE on the cover, because they’re everywhere for Alice, too. I also like the earthy, sandy, beach-like colors of the cover and the way the water is the same shade of blue as the illustrations hiding within the novel. Such a great cover for summer!
This entry is part of Logan E. Turner and The Unread Reader's All Male Review Challenge (2011 Edition). See how I've done so far here.]