Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 1986
On Friday afternoon Wendell’s parents dropped him off at Sophie’s house.
The plot in a nutshell: A houseguest makes himself a little unwelcome.
Sophie’s mother tells her that Wendell will be staying with them while his parents are away for the weekend. Wendell criticizes Sophie’s toys and takes all the most fun roles for himself when they play different pretend games. He annoys her by stealing the whipped cream from her dessert, scaring her when she wakes up and pinching her at breakfast. He misbehaves and causes trouble and Sophie can’t wait for him to leave. But when they go out to play fire fighter, Sophie makes the rules before Wendell can take over and they play together until they are both having fun. When Wendell has to leave, Sophie sneaks a note into his suitcase, telling him she hopes she’ll see him soon.
This is a book that our family had when our kids were little. I’m pretty sure it was a book club selection. Author/illustrator Kevin Henkes wrote several books with mouse characters, including Sheila Rae, the Brave, in which Wendell also makes an appearance. I like this book because it encourages kids to stand up for themselves and remember that they have some say-so in how they play with friends. When she reaches her breaking point, she doesn’t yell or lash out at him. She simply gives him a dose of his own medicine and makes all the rules, showing him two important things. First, that it’s not fun to be minimized and second, that she is done putting up with his nonsense. This allows them to find the balance that’s important in good friendships.
The artwork is watercolor, with pen and ink lines, and the characters remind me a lot of the mice my mom used to draw (most of whom were ballerinas because she loved to draw tutus). It’s fun to watch the progression of Sophie’s parents in this story, from happy to see Wendell at the beginning to relieved that he’s gone at the end. This, of course, is a fun reverse of Sophie’s emotions, as she’s gone from fearing him to enjoying his company. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that former bullies become friends once you show that you can assert yourself with them, but it’s nice to show kids that it can happen sometimes. In the mercurial world of childhood friendships, anything is possible.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sometimes, if you just stand up for yourself, you find that your situation vastly improves all the way around.