Sweeping Up the Heart
by Kevin Henkes
Although it is my picture books that people seem to know best and love most, it is my novels that are nearest and dearest to my heart. Perhaps, the reason is no more than the simple truth that novels take longer to write. The characters from my novels spend more time with me. They become very real to me. They fill my thoughts during the day and enter my dreams at night. For months and months. Year upon year.
I wrote the first line of Sweeping Up the Heart in May of 2013. Poor Amelia Albright. Before I wrote that line Amelia had been with me for over a year, and she's been with me ever since.
Amelia is twelve years old, and she is an artist. These two facts are important. I love writing about young artists because I was one. And I love writing about people in the fuzzy land between childhood and adulthood. It is a thrilling, frightening, wonderful, horrible time of life. A time rich with exquisite human mysteries. The perfect place for a writer to study, observe, explore.
Amelia is trying to figure out her place in her family and in the world. She lives with her father; her mother died when Amelia was two. Her search is complicated by meeting Casey Kirkwood-Cole, also twelve. He enters her life and changes it. He opens the door to a scenario Amelia never would have dreamed possible. But she wants to believe it with all her heart. And so, she does. Shaking up her life as never before.
The book's timeline is one week. That week stretched out over many years for me. And now, although I'm happy to let Amelia go to make room for someone new, I sometimes wish she'd stay.
Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of more than fifty critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning readers, and novels. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon in 2005, and Waiting won a Caldecott Honor and Geisel Honor in 2016. Kevin Henkes is also the creator of a number of picture books featuring his mouse characters, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Lilly’s Big Day and Wemberly Worried, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. His most recent mouse character, Penny, was introduced in Penny and Her Song; her story continued in Penny and Her Doll and Penny and Her Marble (a Geisel Honor Book). Bruce Handy, in a New York Times Book Review piece about A Good Day, wrote, “It should be said: Kevin Henkes is a genius.” Kevin Henkes received two Newbery Honors for novels—one for The Year of Billy Miller and the other for Olive’s Ocean. Also among his fiction for older readers are the novels Junonia, Bird Lake Moon, The Birthday Room, and Sun & Spoon. Kevin Henkes has been published by Greenwillow Books since the release of his first book, All Alone, in 1981. His fiftieth book, the picture book Egg, was published in January 2017. Most recently, he is the author of In the Middle of Fall, Winter Is Here, A Parade of Elephants, Sweeping Up the Heart, and Penny and Her Sled.
He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. You can visit him online at www.kevinhenkes.com.
Praise for SWEEPING UP THE HEART
⋆“Captured on the threshold of puberty’s tumultuous changes, Amelia and Casey quiver with hope and longing. Like a Chinese brush painting made of words, this short novel distills the slow-building impatience of early adolescence down to its essence—not much happens, yet everything does. . . . Spare, luminous, lovely.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
⋆“Henkes’s profound understanding of the adolescent heart and mind is evident . . . In economic prose, Henkes evokes the complexity of his characters’ emotions and relationships, and offers a feel-good resolution.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
⋆“In that confusing space between childhood and adulthood, Amelia finds comfort in talking to her beloved stuffed lamb even as she experiences her first crush and wonders ‘what kind of woman she would be when she grew up.’ The week’s cheerlessness morphs into something complex and important.”
— Horn Book (starred review)
⋆“A stunning realistic fiction novel, Amelia’s story is woven tightly with themes of friendship, grief, and love. In his signature classic style, Henkes perfectly captures the hope paramount to the youthful heart, while honoring difficult themes. . . smooth, compact, emotionally nuanced novel with relatable characters.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)
“Amelia is a winning character: a dreamy, old soul who perfectly displays the naivety and the wisdom of growing up. Humor and lyrical language buoy the . . . narrative. Henkes’s latest story is, like most life changes, quiet yet momentous.”
— ALA Booklist
“Henkes writes in still pools with occasional ripples, a clarity of approach that gives his writing immediacy along with precision. . .Readers will sympathize with
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books