• Happy birthday Barbara Wersba (Walter: The Story of a Rat) and Vicki Cobb (We Dare You!: Hundreds of Science Bets, Challenges, and Experiments You Can Do at Home).
  • It’s the birth date of Ogden Nash (1902-1971), The Tale of Custard the Dragon, The Adventures of Isabel, and Frank McCourt (1931-2009) Angela and the Baby Jesus.
  • It’s Aviation Day, in honor of the birthday of Orville Wright (1871-1948). Read To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendy Old, illustrated by Robert Parker, and The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman.
  • In 1839 Jacque Daguerre’s new photographic process is presentation of to the French Academy of Sciences. Read Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian.
  • In 1934, the first All-American Soap Box Derby is held in Dayton, Ohio. Read Babymouse Burns Rubber by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.

For some children, the end of August means preparing to go to school for the very first time. For them August has been designated Get Ready for Kindergarten Month. If you are hunting for a book that might help the very young overcome some of their anxieties about school, today we’ll look at Kevin Henkes’s Wemberly Worried and tomorrow, Antoinette Portis’s Kindergarten Diary.

First published in 2000, Wemberly Worried appears to be one of the many Kevin Henkes titles headed for classic status. As a young artist, Kevin got a head start on creating books for children. He always knew he wanted to write and illustrate books, and he got his foot in the door of a publisher when he was nineteen. Since then, he has crafted one fabulous book after another.

Although Kevin is now married with children of his own, he is one of those gifted creators who has never forgotten what it feels like to be small and young and vulnerable. His books always have a truth to the way children think and feel.

In our book of the day, Kevin opens the story with these words: “Wemberly worried about everything.” And readers get to see all the things that concern our mouse heroine—such as shrinking in the bathtub. Although everyone in her family tries to tell her not to worry—including her pretty hip grandma mouse sporting a “Go with the Flow” T-shirt—Wemberly just can’t help the thoughts that go through her mind. The radiator might contain a snake; a tree might fall on their house. So when school looms, she worries about the beginning of school. On a two-page spread her worries are even listed in large type: a mean teacher, a smelly room, finding the bathroom.

But of course, in Kevin Henkes’s universe, everything turns out for the best. Wemberly finds a friend and discovers that her teacher, Mrs. Peachum, may not be so bad. By the end of the first day, she jauntily walks out of the room, telling everyone she’ll return. “I will,” she says. “Don’t worry.”

By creating a character full of neuroses, Kevin Henkes allows children to laugh at their own fears and feel that, in the end, going to school might just not be so bad after all.

So to relieve your children’s anxiety—and your own—about the beginning of a new school year, pick up Wemberly Worried. I should probably read it to my graduate students on the first day of class—it applies equally to them.

Here’s a page from Wemberly Worried:



Originally posted August 19, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Humor, Mice, School
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Wemberly Worried


  1. Tayyab Saeed says:

    Great website! I really like your posts. Anyway, I would love it if you posted about books like “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” (Dr. Seuss), “Just Annoying!” (Andy Griffith), “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” (Jon Scieszka), etc. All great books which I would love to read about.

  2. G.Perry says:

    I’m really surprised and delighted this morning to learn that there’s book about children worrying, to have read to them. What a perfect idea. It makes great sense if the author knows what he’s talking about. This one sounds as if he does.

    As a child, I was in harms way, (almost lethally at times) and I recall all too clearly being profoundly anxious. Mine actually caused serious physical illness, and while my worry was caused by external events and clinical, I am just delighted that there is a voice out in the world that addresses even normal worry for children at a level that children can embrace. Where was this voice when I was so small..

  3. Anita says:

    Tayyab: Thanks for your post. I can tell you that The Stinky Cheese Man will be discussed in October on a very appropriate day!

  4. Cathy Ogren says:

    Kevin Henkes knows how to get to the heart of things and charm his readers.

  5. Kathleen T. says:

    My daughter was a reluctant first grader. She took her well-loved stuffed animal, a fluffy white cat named Charlotte, everywhere. On her first day of school she met a friend and had lots of fun, just like Wemberly. She also had a wonderful teacher who welcomed Charlotte to the classroom!

  6. Sally Spratt says:

    Just found your site. Love it! Wemberly Worried looks like a wonderful book.

  7. Melody says:

    Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus is another good choice for worried parents (or graduate students).

  8. Momo says:

    I often think I would like a set of grandmas t-shirts… My mother (aged92) is a worrier so I also wonder how she might respond to this gentle but powerful and important book! Perhaps one day I might find the courage and give it to her to read!

  9. michelle says:

    we love this book! actually, we love all of Kevin Henkes’s mice books. generally, my 6 yo isn’t a worrier, but I love the lesson in this book.

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