The Birthday Room

The Birthday Room

by Kevin Henkes

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Overview

The Birthday Room by Kevin Henkes

"Two of the things Benjamin Hunter received for his twelfth birthday took him completely by surprise: A room and a letter. The room was from his parents. The letter was from his uncle."

Ben was just two years old when he and his uncle, Ian, were last together, so Ben didn't remember him. And no one in Ben's family ever talked about the man. Thenthe letter arrived, changing Ben's life, and changing his family in unexpected ways. And there was the birthday room...

00 Riverbank Review Magazine's Children's Books of Distinction Award Nominations

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064438285
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/07/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 1,059,171
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.35(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Kevin Henkes has been praised both as a writer and as an illustrator. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon; Caldecott Honors for Waiting and Owen; two Newbery Honors—one for Olive’s Ocean and one for The Year of Billy Miller—and Geisel Honors for Waiting and Penny and Her Marble. His other books include Egg, Old Bear, A Good Day, Chrysanthemum, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. www.kevinhenkes.com


Kevin Henkes has been praised both as a writer and as an illustrator. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon; Caldecott Honors for Waiting and Owen; two Newbery Honors—one for Olive’s Ocean and one for The Year of Billy Miller—and Geisel Honors for Waiting and Penny and Her Marble. His other books include Egg, Old Bear, A Good Day, Chrysanthemum, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. www.kevinhenkes.com

Hometown:

Madison, Wisconsin

Date of Birth:

November 27, 1960

Place of Birth:

Racine, Wisconsin

Education:

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Two of the things Benjamin Hunter received for his twelfth birthday took him completely by surprise: a room and a letter. The room was from his parents. The letter was from his uncle.

The room was on the second floor of the house, in the tree-shaded corner of what until a few months earlier had been a musty, unused attic. Ben's parents had reclaimed the attic by having it remodeled to add extra living space to their small, cramped bungalow. Two dormers had been raised-one on the front and one on the back of the house-and three rooms had been built. The largest room was for Ben's mother to use as a weaving studio. The other good-size room was for Ben's father; he had been dreaming for years of a quiet space all his own where he could work on his poetry and listen to his Jazz CDs. And the third room, long and low roofed, had been planned as a reading room with a comfortable overstuffed chair, a skylight, and plenty of shelves to accommodate the overflow of books that seemed to multiply in stacks all over the house, starting in corners and spreading to end tables, countertops, and ottomans like some persistent growth.

Ben had watched the progress of the renovation with great interest. Seeing the exposed structure of the house fascinated him-the beams and wires, the ancient plaster and lath stripes. The crew working on the house, he thought, wasn't unlike a surgical team performing an operation. At the height of the project, the house was a body, skin peeled back to reveal muscles, bones, veins, arteries, and organs.

When the work was completed, the reading room seemed to have been forgotten. The shelves and chair never materialized. Ben just assumedthat his parents were both so consumed with setting up their own private rooms that the reading room was temporarily abandoned. They would get around to it eventually, but obviously it wasn't a priority.

Soon thereafter, on his twelfth birthday, when Ben's parents coaxed him from bed before dawn and led him upstairs, the door to the reading room was bound in stiff, blue velvet ribbon. The bow in the center was as big and round as a basketball.

"Happy birthday," said his mother as she straightened a curled length of ribbon hanging down from the bow. Her voice was mild, with a trace of first-thing-in-the-morning hoarseness. Her eyes moved from Ben to the ribbon and back, and she smiled with parted lips.

"All yours, bud," said his father. He opened the door, and without looking, reached around the jamb and flipped on the switch for the overhead light. He nodded, inviting Ben to enter.

Ben stepped into the room. His eyes tightened against the brightness. The room was empty. "I don't get it," he replied.

"The room -- it's yours," his mother explained. "An art studio."

"What about the reading room?" Ben asked.

"Forget the reading room," said his father. "You're an artist. You need a place to work." He went past Ben to the opposite side of the room to look out the skylight. There was nothing to see but darkness.

"We'll get you an easel or a drawing table," his mother told him. "Whatever you need."

"Wow," Ben said, faking enthusiasm. He blinked. "Thank you."

His mother had been standing on the threshold. When she walked into the room, the pocket of her thin bathrobe caught on the doorknob. The door was pulled along behind her until it was only open a crack. "If you could paint Yellow Sky among all the clutter on the kitchen table," she said, readjusting her robe, cc just think what you can do here." She nudged the door wide open again.

Ben nodded. He could tell how pleased his parents were with the gift. Because he was a lark and his parents were owls, he knew that they had made a great effort to rise early to present their gift before he had had the chance to wake and discover the decorated door on his own.

"Wow," Ben said again. He didn't want to disappoint them. He loved his parents more than he could say. "Great. This is so great."

The room smelled new, or fresh paint. Glossy white beadboard covered the walls. The look and feel was like that of the inside of a cottage.

His mother kissed his cheek and his father kissed the top of his head, and they both hugged him at the same time, encircling him with their arms, making what they used to call a "Ben sandwich," but because he was thinking of Yellow Sky and the empty room and what it meant, he barely felt the embrace. He kissed the air twice, once for each of his parents, which was the closes he'd gotten to actually kissing them in months.

Ben's father yawned noisily like a lazy dog. "I desperately need coffee. And you," he said, facing his son as they broke away from one another, "you need your birthday breakfast. Twelve. I can hardly believe it."

Ben could hardly believe it either. But, whereas his father couldn't believe how quickly the last twelve years had spun by, Ben couldn't believe how long it had taken to turn twelve. In another slow year, he'd finally be a teenager.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, Ben blew out twelve candles stuck into a stack of blueberry pancakes. His parents sang to him and toasted him with orange juice. The three of them ate, while out the window the birds awakened, then chattered and called from the heavy branches nearby and beyond.

When he had finished eating, Ben made stripes on his plate by dragging his fork through the remaining maple syrup. He drew a rectangle. A door. His door. In the seconds before the birthday-room door had been opened, Ben had shivered, one small shiver of excitement. The prospect of what wonderful thing or things could be concealed behind the closed door had made his mind race, guessing. It had to be something too large to put in a regular box and wrap in a normal way. A new bicycle? A big-screen TV? A CD player with giant speakers? A year's supply of cream soda? When he had fully realized what the gift was - and wasn't - his excitement vanished as quickly as the flames on his birthday candles had when he blew at them. The Birthday Room. Copyright © by Kevin Henkes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Birthday Room 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Birthday Room Greenwillow, 1999, 1600pp, $10.47 Kevin Henkes ISBN # 0688167330 When he was two years old, Ben Hunter visited his Uncle Ian and lost his pinkie. Ten years later Ben sees his uncle again. By now Ian is, and his wife is going to have a baby. The Deeters are three wonderful children that Ben meets at his uncle. Two of the three children are twins; their names are Kale and Elka. Their older sister is Ben¿s age, and her name is Lynnie. The story is really about love, friendship, accidents, and honesty. The vocabulary in this book isn¿t that tough, but if I had to rate this book on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best, I would rate it a seven. I would recommend this book to fifth graders or fourth graders that really love to read. By: A Sixth Grader