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Junonia

Review

Junonia

written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Every year in February, just when the weather is the bleakest up north and the summer seems a lifetime away, Alice Rice and her family pack up the car and head south to the Florida coast. Their destination is a beach cottage named Scallop that seems to Alice like "an enchanted house from a fairy tale --- the interior of a tree or an enormous worn-out shoe or a giant nutshell," and they join the adopted "family" of other vacationers who also arrive each year at the same time.

Like all good vacation spots, their resort is both utterly unlike their regular life and almost completely predictable, a comforting source of warmth and genuine joy for Alice. But on this trip, something is different --- Alice will be turning 10, her first double-digit birthday. Will she still feel the same afterwards? And what about her family's beloved companions? One set of playmates fail to show up (they're getting too old to miss schoolwork for a family vacation), one older woman is trapped in a New York City blizzard, and Alice's beloved "Aunt Kate" (actually her mom's oldest friend) will be bringing along her new boyfriend and his young daughter Mallory. Alice can barely contain her disappointment. If so much else has changed, can her birthday possibly fulfill its magical promise?

Alice is annoyed with Mallory's demands and her immaturity; she resents that old Mr. Barden finds Mallory beautiful, but his only remark on Alice's appearance is to point out the mole on her face. Can Alice find the perfect junonia seashell she longs for? Can she capture the perfect birthday she's imagined? Can she find happiness even in the midst of change?

JUNONIA is an almost achingly lovely novel. Its short chapters provide exquisitely crafted glimpses into Alice's life and mind; each one, suffused with the affection of Alice's friends and family, would be a wonderful way for parents and children to cap off days together. Kids will recognize Alice's serious attitude toward her advancing age, while adults will be moved by her surprisingly wise reflections on time, language and love. "Suddenly she felt as if she were the center of everything, like the sun. She was thinking: Here I am. I have my parents. We're alone together. I will never be old. I will never die. It's right now. I'm ten."

This latest book from prolific author Kevin Henkes is languid and peaceful, full of moments to save and savor --- much like the perfect vacation.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 24, 2011

Junonia
written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

  • Publication Date: April 24, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books
  • ISBN-10: 0061964190
  • ISBN-13: 9780061964190