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From the Writer’s Desk

Kevin Henkes visits Sanibel (Greenwillow)

By Kevin Henkes

Here I am on my first trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, in February of 1996. My son is nine months old. This past February marked my sixteenth trip to Sanibel in the same number of years. My son has a sister now. He’s sixteen; she’s thirteen. (He’s taller than I am, and his voice is deeper than mine!)

My wife had gone to Sanibel as a girl, and we’d arranged our first trip on a whim. Now, it’s part of our lives, a part I love and look forward to each year.

Since that very first trip I’d played with the idea of writing a beach picture book or setting a novel on the island. Part of writing is knowing when to push ahead and when to wait. I’ve waited a long time for Junonia.

As I wrote Junonia, I thought about my family’s unsuccessful attempts to find a junonia (shell). I thought about our dolphin sightings. I thought about the growing shell collection we’ve amassed at home. I thought about the sand sculptures we’ve built. I thought about the friends we’ve made over the years, some of whom we only see in Florida.

I wrote a big chunk of the book during a long, bleak winter at home in Wisconsin. It was a balm to be able to spend those days in my head under clear blue skies and in the warmth of a blazing sun.

Alice Rice, my heroine, is an only child, as are her parents. Setting Alice’s story on an island seemed perfect. And I had an island in my head and in my heart. I’d had it for a long time.

Junonia jacket (Greenwillow)Kevin Henkes is the author of Junonia and other novels and picture books for children and young adults. He lives in Wisconsin with his family.

4 Comments

  1. Tania says:

    They say that writing from one’s own life experiences is truly the best writing of all. I’m looking forward to reading Junonia this summer…on a beach with my toes in the sand of course!

  2. cindy says:

    little bub’s smile in this foto is
    just too precious!

  3. Sarah Wilson says:

    Hello,
    I just picked up Junonia for my daughter! I was so excited as I read the pack cover, thinking it would be a fun read for her this summer. As I read more inside, I realized that the setting is Sanibel. We also took our first family trip to Sanibel/Captiva in 1996 with our almost 1 year old son. We have returned every year since, sometimes more often as time permits. We now have 3 kids (16, 14 and 11) that enjoy the bridge crossing, the first pelican sighting, first dolphin sighting and watching for all of the changes every time we visit! I look forward to reading your book with her. Thanks!

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