author spotlight, illustration, nature, read-aloud

Author Spotlight: Chuck Groenink

Chuck Groenink grew up in The Netherlands. Like all Dutch children, he experienced one of the best childhoods in the Western world, a time spent exploring & playing & learning through experience. Books and drawing were, of course, a big part of his life. Groenink graduated from the Artez Institute in Kampen, east of Amsterdam. He moved to the United States in 2010 and now resides in Portland, Oregon. He lives there with his wife, dog, cats, and chickens.

Hank’s Big Day: The Story of a Bug (Anne Schwartz Books)
Written by Evan Khulman
Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

For ages: 3-7
Hank is a pill bug that crawled out from under his rock. He goes about his routine, nibbling at a leaf here and there. Readers are shown the tiny world of Hank folded up inside our larger one, a miniature universe we often miss. Hank enjoys his life, encountering other creatures and doing his exercises. But everything changes when he meets Amelia, a Black girl who imagines she is a famous pilot. She carefully places Hank on her helmet and takes him on her journey of imagination. The text switches from small to large print, and the world Hank is aware of suddenly expands. It’s not just his little patch but a whole backyard and then, through Amelia’s imagination, an entire planet to explore. By the end of their day together, Amelia returns Hank to where she found him. Finally, he can happily crawl back home and dream of what could be.

Rufus the Writer (Schwartz & Wade)
Written by Elizabeth Bram
Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

For ages: 4-8
Rufus isn’t just wishing to become an author; he is one. We find him carefully setting up his writer’s space: a table and chair, some writing implements, and paper. This is his story stand, and he even passes on a chance to go swimming to write for his clients. As different kids approach him, Rufus composes stories and illustrations that connect to something about these friends. For payment, he bases it on what his friends can provide. His beach-bound friends just owe him some seashells when they get back. The art style changes as we move between the world Rufus lives in and the stories from his imagination. The text follows a similar pattern, one color in the ‘real world’ and another in the books. I don’t know if this would appeal to a child not already interested in writing, but it’s an excellent gift for that child.

The Library Book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Written by Tom Chapin & Michael Mark
Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

For ages: 4-8
Our narrator is a little Black girl bored on a rainy day. She puts on her raincoat, heads to the library to pass the day, and catches up with some old friends. As she pulls books off the shelf and looks them over, the girl is greeted by a parade of famous characters: Winnie the Pooh, Madeline, The Cat in the Hat, Pinocchio, Curious George, Babar the Elephant, and more. Chuck Groenink’s style for this one is similar to the previous books but even more refined. He’s able to present these characters outside of the style we expect for each one, yet they still are instantly recognizable because of the color scheme and essential pieces of clothing. In addition, the text is written in a sing-songy style which fits the story’s tone. This would make a perfect library story hour read and is a great way to get children hyped about reading.

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