Good-Bye, Curtis

Overview

Curtis has been delivering mail for forty-two years. Today is his last day. And all the mailboxes along his route are filled with surprises.

There is a drawing from Debbie, Dennis, and Donny. There is a bottle of aftershave from the Johnsons. There is a small, fat book from Mr. Porter.

But the real surprise is at the very last house on the very last street. There is no doubt that everyone loves Curtis!

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Overview

Curtis has been delivering mail for forty-two years. Today is his last day. And all the mailboxes along his route are filled with surprises.

There is a drawing from Debbie, Dennis, and Donny. There is a bottle of aftershave from the Johnsons. There is a small, fat book from Mr. Porter.

But the real surprise is at the very last house on the very last street. There is no doubt that everyone loves Curtis!

Everyone in the neighborhood says a fond farewell to Curtis, their beloved longtime letter carrier, on his last day of work.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Victoria Crenson
Curtis is retiring after forty-two years as a letter carrier. Over the years he has seen a lot of changes. "Trees have grown from little to big. Houses have been torn down. And houses have gone up. People have moved out. And people have moved in." But throughout Curtis has carried out his work of delivering the mail cheerfully everyday. This is a man who cares about his work and the people he serves. His last day on the job the neighborhood has a party to show their appreciation. "'We love you, Curtis,' they all say. 'We'll miss you.'" Henkes reminds us that a job well done and from the heart is its own reward. Russo's portrait of a smiling Curtis surrounded by stamps and postmarks is priceless.
School Library Journal
PreS-KAn unexciting premisethe mailman's last day before retirementis the basis of this cheerful story and lively illustrations. On his last round, Curtis, beloved by all of his patrons, from babies to grandparents, finds little gifts in their mailboxes and is greeted by an affectionate throng at the very last house, where a party is being given in his honor. In his 42 years of carrying letters, the man has seen many changes in the neighborhood, which become the most interesting part of the story. The text is simple, pleasantly repetitive, rhythmic, and reads aloud well. The gouache pictures, done in pure, bright colors, are flat, cartoonlike, humorous, and winning, as they show the variety of residents, pets, dwellings, and businesses of Curtis's postal domain.Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA
Carolyn Phelan
After 42 years delivering the mail to neighborhood shops and houses, Curtis is retiring. This agreeable picture book follows the beloved mailman's route on his last day, when young and old give him hugs and handshakes, little presents and best wishes. At the last house, Curtis' family and friends surprise him with a party in his honor. The next day he writes thank-you notes . . . "and he knows all the addresses by heart." Henkes' simple text sets a tone that's just right for preschoolers: straightforward and affectionate without a hint of sentimentality. In the same spirit, Russo's paintings illuminate the story through small details and gestures painted in a simplified style. One interesting spread depicts the changes that Curtis has seen in his neighborhood over the years. Teachers looking for picture books about "community helpers" will find this a good choice for reading aloud.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688128272
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 24
  • Sales rank: 467,308
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 360L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.87 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of close to fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers, and novels. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon in 2005. 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 (2012); her story continued in Penny and Her Doll and Penny and Her Marble (a Geisel Honor Book). 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 his newest novel for young readers, The Year of Billy Miller, and the other for Olive's Ocean. Also among his fiction for older readers are the novels Junonia, Bird Lake Moon, The Birthday Room, and Sun & Spoon. He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.

From the time I could hold a pencil, I loved to draw. My mother was a single parent who worked full time, and my brothers were much older than I was. It seemed like I spent a lot of time alone. Drawing and, later, writing kept me company.

I was very shy. My mother was always introducing me to little girls who lived in our apartment building in Queens, New York. I became good friends with one girl named Roberta, whose mother was an artist. When they moved to a house a few blocks away, Roberta's mother set up a studio in the attic and gave art lessons. I went with them to sketch in the park. We took the subway into Manhattan to visit museums. I knew I wanted to be an artist.

In the sixth grade I read The Diary of Anne Frank and decided to keep a journal. I keep one to this day. In the seventh grade I started writing short stories. I had a wonderful English teacher, Miss Rothenberg, who encouraged me to write. My first published story appeared in the junior high school literary magazine.

While I dreamed of going to art school, my mother steered me to a liberal arts college, Mount Holyoke. Being a studio art major there was a bit outside the mainstream and, later, having a Mount Holyoke degree didn't open any doors when I began searching for work as an illustrator. But I did get a tremendous education, which serves me well every day of my life.

My early illustration jobs were for magazines, eventually for The New Yorker. I got my first book illustrating job (a cookbook) when I was pregnant with my first child. Other books followed, and two more children. It was only after my third baby was born that an illustrator friend arranged for me to meet Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow. He had to really push me to make the appointment because I was pretty much consumed with motherhood (and exhausted!) The Line Up Book was my first picture book. My son Sam was obsessed with lining up objects all over our house, and that had been my inspiration.

The stories I write usually happen that way. My children say or do something that sticks in my mind. Or I remember something from my own childhood. I mull it over and over and expand it and come up with a story. The initial idea is usually the easy part, but giving it shape, rhythm, and a climax is much more difficult. Painting the pictures is the most fun of all.

There is no other job I would want. Every day when I sit down to work in my studio—which is a bedroom in my house—I feel very lucky and very happy.

Biography

Kevin Henkes still owns some of his favorite books from childhood. "They're brimming with all the telltale signs of true love: dog-eared pages, fingerprints on my favorite illustrations, my name and address inscribed on both front and back covers in inch-high lettering, and the faint smell of stale peanut butter on the bindings," he says in an interview on his web site.

Back in his peanut-butter sandwich days, Henkes dreamed of becoming an artist. By high school, he had combined his love of drawing with a newfound interest in writing, and at age 19, he took his portfolio to New York City in hopes of finding a publisher. Young Henkes returned home from his weeklong trip with a contract from Greenwillow Books, and he's worked as a children's writer and illustrator ever since.

Henkes's style has evolved over the years to include more humor, more whimsy and a lot more mice. Though he began illustrating his picture books with realistic drawings of children, he's since developed a recurring cast of mouse characters rendered in a more cartoon-like style -- though with a range of expressions that make the spirited Lilly, anxious Wemberly, fearless Sheila Rae and sensitive Chrysanthemum into highly believable heroines. Owen, the story of a little mouse who isn't ready to give up his tattered security blanket, won a Caldecott Honor Medal for its winsome watercolor-and-ink illustrations.

Many of Henkes's mouse books deal with such common childhood ordeals as starting school, being teased and getting lost. Chrysanthemum, about a mouse whose new schoolmates tease her about her name, was inspired by Henkes's own feelings when he started school. "The book is about family, and how starting something new and going out into the world can be very hard," he told an interviewer for The Five Owls. "I remember going to kindergarten -- my grandfather had a beautiful rose garden, and he gave me the last roses of the season to bring to the kindergarten teacher the next day. I don't even remember how it happened, but an older kid took these flowers from me on the playground, and I remember coming home, feeling awful." As a grown-up, Henkes is able to translate difficult childhood transitions into stories that are both honest and reassuring. In a review of Chrysanthemum, Kirkus Reviews noted: "Henkes's language and humor are impeccably fresh, his cozy illustrations sensitive and funny, his little asides to adults an unobtrusive delight."

Henkes has also written novels for older children, in which he "explores family relationships with breathtaking tenderness" (Publisher's Weekly). In The Birthday Room, for example, a twelve-year-old boy learns the reason for his mother's long estrangement from her brother, and helps effect a reconciliation. "Refreshingly, Henkes has given us a male protagonist who is reflective, creative and emotionally sensitive," wrote Karen Leggett in The New York Times Book Review. "Ben feels the anguish of his mother's long-simmering bitterness and his uncle's agonizing guilt. Yet at a time when it is almost a fad to blame dysfunctional families for problems, we learn that even though there are never simple answers and not many fairy-tale endings, families can heal."

Though his novels are more complex and serious than his picture books, all Henkes's works suggest an author with deep empathy for the intense emotions of childhood. As a Publisher's Weekly reviewer wrote, "Behind each book is a wide-open heart, one readers can't help but respond to, that makes all of Henkes's books of special value to children."

Good To Know

Henkes's wife, Laura Dronzek, is also an artist. She painted the cover illustration for Henkes' novel Sun and Spoon and illustrated his picture book Oh!.

Henkes has turned down requests to use his mouse characters in a television series, but some of his books are available in video form in Chrysanthemum and More Kevin Henkes Stories. The video's narrators include Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mary Beth Hurt.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse has been adapted into a stage play.

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    1. Hometown:
      Madison, Wisconsin
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 27, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Racine, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin, Madison
    2. Website:

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