The thing about recent Kevin Henkes books is that I do not see the illustration styles of Chrysanthemum, Owen or Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse anymore. What I have come to know as his style is gone. Therefore, I do not say, “THAT is a Kevin Henkes book” and I am no longer drawn to them. However, this is in the style of the more recent books, so if you prefer that, this is perfectly a representation of his style.
I picked up A Parade of Elephants because of a display in my independent bookstore was clever. Also, it is on several “must read children’s picture book” lists. And I did know at this point it was a Kevin Henkes book and wanted to read it. But the book was only “okay.” The counting aspect was fun, though better suited for a board book (smaller sized or lap sized) format. I completely missed the fact that he is also trying to introduce adjectives, adverbs, daytime, and nighttime. The very end where the elephants trumpet stars into the sky is jarring. That last-minute fantasy element throws the whole thing off. The fact the elephants are non-elephant colors is fine, as you expect to have different colored elephants in a children’s book. But the obvious fantastical element, especially at the end of an otherwise not fantasy book, causes you to come out of the story too hard. Even the allusion to Winnie the Pooh’s Pink Elephants on Parade does not take away from the story, if perhaps being a bit too obvious.
The colors are muted. This would be fine in a glossy board book allowing for something to pop off the page, but in this traditional book size (though slightly smaller than normal) makes the book look flat.
The whole book is, sadly, flat. While I did not grow up on Henkes books, I do consider them old friends. And his recent works and I just cannot be friends.