On Wisconsin magazine features ‘storybook romance’ of UW–Madison alums Dronzek, Henkes

The life and work of UW–Madison alumni Laura Dronzek and Kevin Henkes was featured recently in the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s On Wisconsin magazine.

Laura Dronzek and Kevin Henkes
Dronzek and Henkes, in their home studios

The article, titled “A Storybook Romance,” describes how Dronzek and Henkes — who both earned degrees from the School of Education’s Art Department — met at UW–Madison, married, and now “make magic together in children’s literature.”

Henkes received a bachelor’s degree in art from the Art Department in 1983. He is described as a “superstar” in children’s literature, and has earned numerous awards for his solo creations, including a Caldecott Medal for “Kitten’s First Full Moon,” Newbery Honors for “Olive’s Ocean” and “The Year of Billy Miller,” and in 2020, the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the article explains.

“The Legacy Award was an utter surprise,” Henkes told On Wisconsin. “My first thought was that I was too young to receive it — forgetting, for the moment, that I was 59 and that I’d written 55 books. To know that I’m included on a list with, among others, E. B. White, Beverly Cleary, Maurice Sendak, and Virginia Hamilton still gives me pause.”

Likewise Dronzek, explains the article, is “a force of nature in her own right.” After majoring in psychology and English at UW–Madison for her undergraduate degree, Dronzek earned an MFA in painting from the Art Department in 1993. She has created illustrations for George Shannon’s “White Is for Blueberry,” Helen V. Griffith’s “Moonlight,” Phyllis Rowand’s “It Is Night, and many other titles, and has built a successful fine-art career.

“The colors and lines in Laura’s illustrations are bold, but you feel calm when you look at them,” says Kathleen Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) in the School of Education. “She gives you the sense of entering into a young child’s world.”

Dronzek and Henkes also have an artistic partnership, including many successful collaborations. “Like the words and illustrations in a successful picture book, the two artists have brought out the best in each other in such titles as ‘Winter Is Here,’ ‘Summer Song,’ and ‘Birds,’” the article explains.

“Laura and I trust one another completely. She’s the first person to see everything I make,” Henkes says. “It’s wonderful to have a person in your close proximity who cares about you but can look at the work with a clear, cool eye.”

Check out the full article to learn more about Dronzek and Henkes’ remarkable marriage and partnership.