Earlier this month, author-illustrator Kevin Henkes delivered the prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture at the University of Kentucky ' a very big deal in the world of children's publishing. The Arbuthnot recognizes lifelong contributions to the field, and Henkes is only in his mid-40s.
'Maurice Sendak and other writers I read and admired growing up, and who influenced me, have won this,' he says. 'It took me totally by surprise. I thought I was too young to win.'
The Arbuthnot is the latest in Henkes' string of honors, including a Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon and a Newbery Honor for Olive's Ocean. And he keeps the ball rolling with a charming new picture book called A Good Day, which explores how quickly a bad day can turn glorious.
The characters aren't his familiar mice. Instead, Henkes cleverly interweaves the individual stories of a brilliantly colored yellow bird, a puppy, a young fox, a squirrel and a little girl. At first, each animal is faced with disappointment in Henkes' richly toned mix of line drawing and watercolors. The bird loses a prized feather, the puppy gets tangled up in her leash, the fox loses his mother, and the squirrel drops an acorn. But their losses turn out to be temporary, and when a little girl puts the bird's feather in her hair, a very good day is wrapped up neat as a pin.
Parents will be impressed by how easily Henkes works out the animals' dilemmas and makes a point about the wonders of change in the process. He'll read A Good Day at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at Borders West.
Since he began publishing with the Greenwillow imprint in the early 1980s, Henkes has placed many titles on The New York Times list of best-selling children's books. And A Good Day has already made the top 10, despite the fact that Henkes has avoided a multi-city book tour this time.
'I like to be home writing,' he says.
The new Majestic
Matt Gerding and Scott Leslie spent time in Los Angeles gaining experience in the music industry. Now they hope to make that experience pay off in the Madison music scene. They've made an offer on the Majestic Theater, and the theater's current owners, the Schiavo family, have accepted. If their financing goes through, they plan on turning the troubled King Street nightspot into a profitable live-music venue that will showcase a variety of national touring acts.
Closing on the building should take place in mid-May. After remodeling, the theater would reopen sometime in September.
Gerding and Leslie are applying for a new liquor license, in part to sidestep the draconian security plan placed on the Majestic after violence occurred in and around the club last summer on hip-hop DJ nights. They'll go before the city's Alcohol License Review Committee in April to secure support for the license and to present a new security plan.
Unsurprisingly, Gerding and Leslie emphasize that they won't have dance music at the new Majestic. But they do plan on appealing to a broad range of musical tastes. They say they'll also offer everything from live comedy to wine-tastings.
After remodeling, the venue should hold about 590 patrons for live concerts. (Tables and chairs will be removed from the ground floor on most concert nights.) Leslie says the new capacity will help the theater attract acts that are too big for the Annex and High Noon Saloon and too small for the Barrymore Theatre.
'We both view the Madison music scene as being on the cusp,' says Gerding, who thinks the remodeled Majestic will be a magnet for acts that currently skip the market. 'We think this is the missing piece.'