Oh, Sal by Kevin Henkes

Hello, Kevin Henkes! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! The last time we celebrated books together was in 2019 at nErDcamp Michigan. That feels as though it was a decade ago!

I’m grateful you’re here to celebrate Oh, Sal, a book that begs to be read aloud. Reading it took me back to how I felt the first time I read The Year of Billy Miller. I wanted to underline nearly every sentence. I cannot wait to booktalk Oh, Sal during my 2022 Books I Love presentations, which brings me to the following scenario. Imagine you’re booktalking Oh, Sal to elementary school librarians. What do you share with them?

Kevin Henkes: My new middle grade novel is called Oh, Sal. Although it is the third book about the Miller family, you don’t have to have read the first two (The Year of Billy Miller and Billy Miller Makes a Wish) to read this one.

Oh, Sal is a short novel with many illustrations—forty-seven to be exact. It is about families and new siblings, about losing things and finding them. I imagine that it will be read by those starting to read chapter books on their own and those who are already comfortable and proficient readers. And I think it will be a good book to read aloud in a classroom or at home.

I tried to make Oh, Sal funny, while also giving it emotional depth. I tried to make it appeal to many ages. And, I tried to honor some of my favorite literary families: Beverly Cleary’s Quimbys, Eleanor Estes’s Moffats, and Elizabeth Enright’s Melendys.


Please finish the following sentence starters: (It feels like I’m giving you the same assignment Ms. Willard gives Billy’s class.)

Sal is my mouse character Lilly’s human counterpart.

The Miller family is ordinary, but singular, too.

Spritz cookies, pizza, and coffee cake are three foods that I like—a lot. I made sure that I drew all three of them in my book. And I made sure that I ate them as part of my research as I was writing Oh, Sal. Doing research can be very enjoyable!

A House is my latest picture book. My goal was to make a picture book in which simply reading the words on the page creates a dialogue, an interaction between the reader and the listener. I tried to approximate how one might talk with a child about the illustrations if there were no words provided. Hopefully the book becomes an opening, allowing readers and listeners to move beyond the pages to something deeper.

John Schu, you should have asked me if I have any other books coming out in 2022. I do—a picture book called Little Houses. I wrote the words and my wife, Laura Dronzek, painted the pictures. Unlike the house in A House, these little houses are seashells.

Thank you, Kevin Henkes! 

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of more than fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers, and novels. He is the winner of the American Library Association’s 2020 Children’s Literature Legacy Award; he received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon in 2005; and Waiting won a Caldecott Honor and Geisel Honor in 2016. Kevin Henkes is also the creator of a number of picture books featuring his mouse characters, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Lilly’s Big Day and Wemberly Worried, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. His most recent mouse character, Penny, was introduced in Penny and Her Song; her story continued in Penny and Her Doll, Penny and Her Marble (a Geisel Honor Book), and Penny and Her Sled. Bruce Handy, in a New York Times Book Review piece about A Good Day, wrote, “It should be said: Kevin Henkes is a genius.” Kevin Henkes received two Newbery Honors for novels—one for The Year of Billy Miller and the other for Olive’s Ocean. Also among his fiction for older readers are the novels JunoniaBird Lake MoonThe Birthday RoomSun & Spoon, and Sweeping Up the Heart. Kevin Henkes has been published by Greenwillow Books since the release of his first book, All Alone, in 1981. Most recently, he is the author of  Summer Song,  Sun Flower Lion, Billy Miller Makes a Wish, and A House.

Look for Oh, Sal on September 27, 2022.


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