The Barnes & Noble Review
Since I have the very best grandchildren in the whole wide world, it was inevitable that I would adore "Sun & Spoon"a book about a grandson seeking a special something to remind him of his recently deceased grandmother. It certainly helped that the story is exceptionally well told and very well written.
Having just published a book about grandparents, I particularly liked the fact that the plot around which this book revolves will have significant meaning to children who have lost a grandparent, or any loved one. Even adults can't adequately prepare for the loss of someone who has been an integral part of their lives. But children, especially, can be confused by the emotions they feel at such a time. For many, the passing away of a grandparent may well be the first time they are confronted with the upheaval that such a death causes to the immediate family. By reading "Sun & Spoon," children faced with the death of a loved one will be comforted in learning that they are not alone in the feelings that come over them during this difficult time. And the coping suggestions subtly made in the bookmaking a notebook about the deceased grandparent and finding a special mementoare very valuable ones that will hopefully be imitated by many readers.
Henkes is an experienced writer, so he makes sure that it's not just the relationship between ten-year-old Spoon and his late grandmother that unfolds but also those between Spoon and his younger sister, his parents, his older brother, and his grandfather. In each instance, the reader picks up useful insights on theinteractions that take place within a familyinformation that can be very helpful in dealing with real-life relationships they may encounter within their own family. Of particular importance is the reaction of Spoon's grandfather to losing his wifehis sadness, the changes in his habits. Sometimes it is harder for children to deal with the changes that take place within the character of the surviving spouse than the emotions caused by the disappearance of the person that died, because the personality changes in the survivor are constantly visible to children.
Children may try to push the deceased person out of their mind in order not to have to deal with the pain that accompanies the memories. It is very important that this does not occur, because emotions that are buried can cause more damage later on. Yet parents are prone to protect their children, even though by doing so they are not allowing them to come to terms with the process of mourning. Pyschologically speaking, Spoon's insistence of trying to keep his grandmother's memory alive is a very important example to give to children.
And then, like the chocolate nestled in the center of a Tootsie Pop, is the lesson learned about telling the truth. Subtly delivered, because Spoon's lie is not really so bad, the message comes across more strongly, I believe, than if Spoon had lied maliciously. He finds himself in a situation that any kid might, torn between revealing what he's done or merely trying to right the wrong. His choice is not the easy way out, but the right way.
Rereading what I have written, I see that I've used the word "subtly" several times, and it is that quality that I find of special value. The topic of death is not one easily dealt with, which is why I believe that Henkes should be congratulated for handling it with care while at the same time creating a story that will interest and offer valuable advice to all children, even those who haven't yet had to deal with death.
I heartily recommend "Sun & Spoon." Though I would like to believe that I will last forever, I know the time will come when my grandchildren will have to face the loss of their Omi [grandmother], just as they have already lost their grandfather. I could wish them no better tool to help them deal with such circumstances than to read this book. Recommended for ages 8 and up.Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Henkes's deftness and gift in ''Sun & Spoon'' are not always in the actual story, but in his sensitive observation of each character's passions and eccentricities. The book glitters with small, memorable moments that seem true to life, yet fresh and unexpected. -- New York Times
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Oftentimes when we lose someone close to us we want to keep something of theirs as a reminder of him or her in our lives. Spoon Gilmore's Gram died two months ago and he is searching for that something special he can always have. The book is filled with Spoon's remembrances of his Gram, and how he deals with his grief. He misses playing triple solitaire with her and Pa and he knows how much she loved to collect suns. Spoon even tries to come up with a list of 52 details about her. He is afraid he is going to forget. But this is really a story about family relationships: between parent and child, brother and sister, brother and brother, grandparent and grandchild, and the living and the dead. This is a great first novel for any young reader.
Children's Literature - Sheree van Vreede
Oftentimes when we lose someone close to us, we want to keep something of theirs as a personal reminder. Spoon Gilmore's Gram died two months ago and he is searching for that something special he can always have. The book is filled with Spoon's remembrances of his Gram, and how he deals with his grief. He misses playing triple solitaire with her and Pa, and he knows how much she loved to collect suns. Spoon even tries to come up with a list of 52 details about her. He is afraid he is going to forget. But this is really a story about family relationships: between parent and child, brother and sister, brother and brother, grandparent and grandchild, and the living and the dead. This is a great first novel for any young reader.
AGERANGE: Ages 8 to 14.
Spoon Gilmore has felt adrift since his grandmother's death a couple of months ago. His grandfather seems equally off-balance. It takes time to adjust to a loved one's passing, of that there can be no doubt. But what scares ten-year-old Spoon is that he seems to be losing his grandmother more all the time. His memories seem fuzzier than they were, and if he loses them, he is afraid of losing his beloved grandmother altogether. So, he settles on a plan. He determines to find an object of Gram's that he can keep that will remind him of her. It quickly becomes apparent that Spoon has made a terrible mistake. Can he set things right? Readers who have lost a grandparent will appreciate Kevin Henkes' keen understanding of their heartache, but even those lucky enough not to have personal experience with a grandparent's death will empathize with Spoon's plight. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7Ten-year-old Spoon wrestles with sorrow this first summer since his beloved Gram has passed away. His older brother takes a planned cross-country trip to visit their other grandmother, but Spoon stays home. Worrying that his memories of Gram will fade, he seeks a special remembrance of her. Everything is a bit off-kilter, especially Pa, his grandfather. The grieving man can't get enough of six-year-old pesky Joanie and the bone collection she carts around in her suitcase, but he doesn't have the heart to play cards with Spoon, because Gram is no longer there to be the third participant in triple solitaire. Spoon finds the perfect talisman and secretly pockets it, creating a turmoil in Pa that is difficult to resolve. Verbal communication can be so difficult and yet the boy finds the courage to face up to his theft. Given the opportunity to keep the desired memento, Spoon chooses to accept a once unappreciated photo and discovers a magical, mystical, memorable connection to his grandmother. Once again Henkes captures young angst with respect and honesty. A subject that could be overwhelmingly dark and cloudy is illuminated most comfortingly. Images of supportive parents and love between generations shine through without a heavy hand. Imagery of weather and art and dreams will be caught and appreciated by thoughtful readers. Cynthia Rylant's Missing May (Orchard, 1992) and Sharon Mathis's The Hundred Penny Box (Viking, 1975) also demonstrate powerful concerns about remembering loved ones.Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO
Wearing his novelist's hat, Henkes (Protecting Marie, 1995, etc.) offers another meticulously crafted, quietly engaging epiphany: A 10-year-old looking for just the right memento of his recently dead grandmother finds it literally in his hands.
It's been two months since Gram's funeral, and Spoon, worried about his fading memories of her, surreptitiously searches his grandparents' house for something of hers with which to anchor them. He settles at last on the deck of cards she always used for solitaire, but his twinge of guilt becomes knife- edged when Pa, his grieving grandfather, allows that he'd been taking some comfort from using those cards, and can't sleep for wondering what happened to them. Spoon finds the courage to put them back and to confess; later he discovers something bettera tracing of Gram's hand, made when she was his age, with a big M on it and the legend, "M is always for Martha," which was her name. Why better? Because he finds the same M in the creases in the lines of his own palm, as well as in his younger sister's and parents' palms. Henkes deftly delineates characters and relationships with brief conversations and small personal or family rituals, folds in motifshands, the sunto give the plot a pleasing rhythm, and consistently finds the perfect words to evoke each moment's sometimes-complex feelings. Like Henkes's other novels, this is more restrained in tone than his picture books, but it is infused with the same good humor, wisdom, and respect for children's hearts and minds that characterize all his works.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Sun & Spoon by Kevin Henkes
Part One: The Search
SPOON GILMORE'S GRANDMOTHER had been dead for two months when he
realized that he wanted something special of hers to keep. This thought came to
him in the middle of a hot, sticky July night and nagged at him off and on until
It was all he could think about at breakfast. He was sitting alone at the
kitchen table having the same breakfast he had almost every morning -- a bowl of
Cap'n Crunch and a glass of grape juice. His hand wobbled and his juice glass
grazed his cheek, nearly missing his mouth, he was so preoccupied. Juice
dribbled down his chin. He wiped the juice with the back of his hand, then wiped
his hand on his T-shirt.
Something of Gram's. Spoon had been dreaming about her since her death. Not
frightening dreams. But dreams in which she would pass through a room quickly,
or be sitting in a chair in a shadowy corner, watching. At first, the dreams
were constant, every night, but they were growing less frequent. Spoon was
afraid of losing what little was left of her -- his memories. He was afraid of
forgetting her. That's why he wanted something of hers.
He didn't know exactly what he had in mind, but he knew what he didn't have in
mind: a photograph. Spoon disliked photographs of himself and he assumed that
that's the way it was with most people. It surely had been the case with Gram,
who, upon seeing a photo of herself, would sniff, disgusted, and brush it aside.
A photograph of Gram would not work. A photograph definitely was not what he was
looking for. He needed something of Gram's that had been important to her. And
he didn't want the "something" to be a girl thing like a necklace or a pin or an
What could it be?
Sunlight shone through the large kitchen window, turning the tabletop white. Out
the window Spoon could see his parents already at work in the garden. His
father, Scott, was a fourth-grade teacher and his mother, Kay, taught art at the
same school, Lincoln Elementary, to all the grades, kindergarten through fifth.
Because they both had the summers free, they had become devoted gardeners over
the years. Scott was most interested in vegetables and his compost bin, and Kay
spent most of her time with her flowers. From dawn until dusk, day in and day
out, all summer long, they could usually be found in the garden.
This particular summer was supposed to have been different, though. The entire
family had planned to travel by car from their home in Madison, Wisconsin, to
Eugene, Oregon, where Spoon's maternal grandmother, Evie, lived. They were going
to take their time, stop along the way, see things that most people miss because
of their hurried pace. But Spoon's other grandmother, the one who had lived in
Madison just five blocks away, had died suddenly in May of a heart attack. Gram.
Pa lived alone now in the house Spoon's father had grown up in.
"Mom and I can't leave Pa alone in Madison for the summer," Scott had told his
three children early in June, glancing from one to the next to the next, then
looking away and jingling the change in his pocket. Sadness showed in his eyes
and in the droop of his shoulders. "Even if we'd cut the trip short...I can't do
it. So the trip we planned is canceled. We'll try again next year. But Mom and I
talked with Evie. And she'll fly any or all of you out west if you want to go.
For as long as you'd like. So think about it...."
Joanie, who was six, couldn't bear to leave her mother.
Charlie, who was twelve, said yes instantly.
And Spoon, who was ten and in the middle, thought and thought and thought before
finally saying no.
Charlie called him a baby. And maybe he was. But this was the first time someone
he loved would be gone forever. He didn't like to think about the forever part.
But when he did, which was often, the only place he wanted to be was home.
Evie's husband, Henry, had died long before Spoon was born, so Spoon only knew
him through stories and photographs. He felt no real connection to Henry, but
his connection to Gram was strong.
With his gaze fixed steadily on his bowl of Cap'n Crunch and his arms encircling
it, Spoon sat as if in a trance, racking his brain for a solution. Something of
Gram's. What could it be?
He sat and sat.
The cereal had become soggy. The milk in the bowl had turned a yellowy color,
inedible. I've come up with nothing, Spoon thought, and I've wasted breakfast.
He frowned at the bowl and pushed it away.
"I thought you liked Cap'n Crunch," said Joanie, popping up from behind the
counter. She had the annoying habit of surprising Spoon, turning up when he
least expected it. And this summer she was worse than ever.
He ignored her, rising from the table and placing his dishes in the sink.
"You can have some of my Floopies," she told him. That's what she called Froot
Loops, the only cereal she would eat. "But you can't read the box. You'll fill
your head with too much stuff. And then you won't have room for other stuff."
Spoon turned toward her and shot her a look that said, You're crazy.
"Do you think we'll get a postcard from Charlie today?" Joanie asked in her
"Do I care?" He did. But he would never let on. He was still by the sink with
his back to her, and he could feel her presence like a persistent itch. He
decided to do the few dishes there were, hoping she'd be gone by the time he
Joanie stood behind Spoon, waiting, clutching the handle of her little
green-and-black plaid canvas suitcase. Despite the heat, she was wearing her red
hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. Her head looked pointy like an elf's. The
sweatshirt had first been Charlie's, then Spoon's, and now it belonged to
Joanie. She loved it the way other children love blankets or teddy bears. The
cuffs were ragged, little holes had cropped up along the seams as if the
stitches were rotting, and because it had been worn and laundered so many times
it wasn't actually red any longer but the pale washy color of watermelon flesh.
"I can help you," Joanie offered, banging her suitcase against her knees.
"Nope. I'm almost done." His dishes were washed and rinsed and in the drying
rack, but he continued to swish his hands about in the water for effect.
"Want to see what's in my suitcase?"
"I already know what's in your suitcase. Twigs."
"It's full of bones," Joanie said in a fierce whisper. "And I've got some new
"They're twigs, not bones."
"They are bones. The bones of trees!" she shrieked. "And I collect them." She
hopped with delight, a tiny hop.
Spoon spun around, drying his hands on a dish towel. He gently tapped Joanie's
head. "Just as I thought," he said. "Hollow."
As usual, Joanie just smiled at Spoon's insult, which always put him in a low
mood. Charlie's insults could diminish Spoon, and he wondered why he didn't have
the same power over Joanie.
"What are you going to do today?" Joanie asked.
"Whatever it is, you're not included," is what Spoon said, but he was smart
enough to know that she would try to follow him no matter how hard he wished it
to be otherwise. The privacy that he needed today would not be easy to come by.
After tossing the dish towel on the table, Spoon set his jaw and looked at
Joanie with narrow eyes, trying to send a message: Do not tag along
I've got to get moving, he thought. I've got to get something of Gram's. First,
he'd ask permission from his parents to walk to Pa's house, and then he'd be on
his way. He headed for the back door.
"Where are you going?"
"Where are you going?"
Joanie slipped in front of her brother. "Where are you going?" she asked again,
her voice musical, her blue eyes round. Her ability to wear him down was
"I've got an important project to work on," Spoon replied under his breath in
exasperation. Instantly he was regretful. He hated himself for being such a big
mouth, so he pinched his leg as hard as he could, imagining that it was Joanie
he was pinching.
"Tell me, tell me!" Joanie jumped up and down, scraping the wall with her
suitcase. "Where are you going?"
Spoon was losing his temper. The wings of his nostrils flared and reddened.
"Okay!" he shouted, giving in. "Okay! I'm going over to Pa's. But you're not
coming with me. Repeat after me: I will not follow you."
"I will not," was all Joanie managed to repeat, so as not to lie. Her cheeks
flushed with excitement.
But Spoon didn't even hear her. He was already out the door. He was trying
another tactic. He was running as fast as he could.
Excerpt from SUN & SPOON by Kevin Henkes. Copyright ©
1997 by Kevin Henkes. Used by permission of Greenwillow Books, a division of
William Morrow & Company, Inc.