Review: Henry in Love by Peter McCarty
By Phoebe Vreeland, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 14, 2010
by Peter McCarty
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (December 22, 2009)
Henry wakes to the smell of blueberry muffins fresh from the oven. After breakfast, his mother packs one in his school lunch. We get the import of this indigo colored treat: treasured, sweet and full of a mother’s love.
Peter McCarty has created a quiet, dreamy young cat. Henry keeps his emotional cards close to his jersey which sports the number two (Oh, delightful foreshadowing!). Chloe, a winsome bunny in a pink dress, has a special effect on him. As his feelings of love overflow, a profusion of pink and red flowers floats across the page. On the way to school, a chance encounter with Chloe’s older brother gives Henry the courage to approach her on the playground. Courting at this tender age involves a show of gymnastics and a game of tag. Henry may be fast but he won’t catch Chloe. Every good love story has a dose of kismet, and after recess, fortune smiles on Henry giving him the chance to reveal his affection.
McCarthy’s pencil and watercolor pictures are set against a creamy expanse for a fine effect. The illustrations are stripped of the depth and dimension that heavy shading brought in his previous books, yet the animal faces retain their softness and charm. The addition of pastel color is welcome. When brought to the brightest intensity, a color directs the reader’s eye to the desired object: a pink dress and that booming, blue muffin. McCarty’s simple characters are enlivened by a slight angle of the ear and a glint of light in their tiny seed eyes. Henry’s class, a fine mix of domestic and barnyard animals, is reminiscent of a Rosemary Wells class room. Fans of Georg Hallensleben’s Gaspard and Lisa characters may also be charmed.
As both artist and author, McCarty achieves a nice balance with the neatness of the art matching the economy of text. McCarty comes from a family of artists and credits his talent to being surrounded by good art and the fruits of a rich inner world as a child. He won a Caldecott Honor in 2003 for Fabien & Hondo.
Adults will recognize the seeds of romance in Henry in Love: 1. The appeal of the chase: “You will never catch me,” Chloe teases. 2. Sacrifice: The blueberry muffin—which seems to have grown in size by the end of the book—is willingly offered. But one of the true gifts children bring to our adult lives is the opportunity to return to that place of first experience. This book offers a journey back to that very tender place in our hearts where first love abides. Children who are too young will simply delight in the creatures as they move across the page. Those of a first crush age will benefit from having that emergent love reflected so earnestly.
For those who can’t even imagine talking to a girl, go get a copy of McCarty’s 2009 Jeremy Draws a Monster and be warned of the perils of the imaginary playmate gone wild!
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