Penny and Her Doll
by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author
Primary Greenwillow 32 pp.
8/12 978-0-06-208199-5 $12.99
Naming things, whether children, pets, or toys, is serious business, and in this follow-up to Penny and Her Song (rev. 3/12) Henkes doesn’t take that task lightly. Gram sends mouse Penny a doll: “The doll had pink cheeks. The doll had a pink bow. The doll had a pink dress with big buttons.” But what to name her? As Penny spends three brief and accessible chapters wondering what to call this most lovely doll, Henkes gently guides readers through the process. It all works beautifully. The illustrations are varied, not only supporting the text but also adding some character development, such as when Penny systematically shows her new doll around the house. The language is natural (“‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I will find a name for you’”), and there’s a literary sophistication not often found in books for this age, with wordplay exchanged between Penny and her mother as they work in the garden and subtle clues that allow readers to make predictions about the doll’s eventual moniker. In this second easy reader about Penny, Henkes continues to give children reasons to want to read, long after the satisfaction of learning how to has passed, by offering a fine story, memorable characters, and a chance to puzzle through a universal childhood experience right alongside a sympathetic protagonist.