Kevin Henkes was born in 1960 in Racine, Wisconsin. Throughout his childhood, he and his family visited the local public library, making an important ritual out of selecting and carrying home books. Inspired by such illustrators as Crockett Johnson and Garth Williams, Henkes decided at an early age that he would be an artist, and enjoyed frequent visits to the nearby art museum. It was a high school teacher's encouragement of his writing, however, that gave Henkes the idea for his future career.
Henkes' first picture book, drafted while he was still in high school, was accepted for publication when Henkes was just 19, an art major at the University of Wisconsin. Since then, he has worked steadily, writing and illustrating more than 15 picture books that have won him a devoted audience as well as considerable critical acclaim. Owen was named a Caldecott Honor Book, one of many awards and citations Henkes has received. In 2004, Henkes won another Newbery Honor for Olive's Ocean. In addition to his self-illustrated picture books, Henkes has written picture books that others have illustrated, and a number of novels for young readers. He lives with his wife in Madison, Wisconsin.