First experiences can be exciting, scary, and sometimes even confusing. The protagonist of Kevin Henkes’ Caldecott winner, Kitten’s First Full Moon, finds this to be the case when she mistakes the full moon for a bowl full of milk.
Kitten first tries to stretch out her neck and lick the moon, but ends up licking a lightning bug instead. Then she tries to leap at the moon, but tumbles off the porch and bumps her nose. She begins chasing and chasing the moon, but it never gets any closer, so she climbs up a tree and still it isn’t within her reach. Then she suddenly sees the bowl of milk underneath her, as the reflection of the moon in the pond catches her eye. She races to the pond and jumps in, only to end up wet and cold and far from home. She sadly hangs her head and trots back home, to find a big bowl of milk awaiting her.
While the text is sweet and relatable for anyone who has made a mistake their first time seeing something new, or perhaps at their first day of school or work, the illustrations are truly the standout portion of the book. Gouache paint and colored pencils create the black and white scenes, expertly shaded to show dimension in each blade of grass or ripple of water. The choice of black and white makes the lines more apparent, and also provides a sort of glowing effect from the moon on each page. Each turn of the page is a surprise, as Henkes changes the page layout, from a full-page illustration, to comic book style breakdowns, to white space with only the kitten and the moon.