December 20, 2016

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:54 pm by suebe2

the-thank-you-bookThe Thank You Book
by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children

When Piggie announces that he’s going to thank everyone that is important to him, it obviously makes Gerald nervous.  He’s worried that his friend is going to leave out someone important.

From one character to another, Gerald follows Piggie.  Piggie thanks the squirrels for their great ideas, the penguin for his ice cream and a whole host of animals for being good friends.  Readers will even get to see Pigeon.

The more character’s that Piggie thanks, the more anxious Elephant (Gerald) becomes.  Finally he forcefully points out that Piggie has forgotten someone really important.  Piggie, of course, things of the same character that the readers have already thought of.  With all of this thanking going on, Piggie hasn’t said thank you to Elephant.

When Piggie thanks him, Elephant loses his cool.  He didn’t mean himself at all.  And, no, I’m not going to tell you who he meant because it is too good.  You’ll have to read the book.

This isn’t a picture book but one of the Elephant & Piggie early readers now put out by Hyperion.  Unlike Dan Santat’s The Cookie Fiasco and We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller, this one is actually written by Mo Willems.

Who would like this book?  As an early reader, it is a good choice the a child who is just learning to read independently.  The text is simpler than that of a picture book and the images provide plenty of contextual cues for any words your child might have trouble deciphering.  Obviously share it with your young Elephant and Piggie fans but also pick it up to share with your young child who blesses endless people in her evening prayers or who simply needs to learn a few subtle lessons about gratitude.  We have, after all, all been there.


October 5, 2016

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:15 pm by suebe2

the-cookie-fiascoThe Cookie Fiasco
by Dan Santat
Hyperion Books for Children

Four friends with only three cookies makes for one great big problem.  Will they work it out before it’s too late?

A hippo, a crocodile and two squirrels are trying to figure out how to evenly divide four cookies.  (It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke!) I kept expecting the hippo to snap and just eat all the treats.  He does suggest that he should get a bigger share because he’s so much bigger than the others.

But as hippo gets hungrier and hungrier, his nerves snap.  Let’s just say that he has a nervous habit of fiddling with things.  With a snap, the breaks one cookie and then another.  The squirrels worry that soon there will be only crumbs.

Worrisome though it may be hippo’s habit saves the day.  It seems that it is much easier to evenly divide the pieces of cookies.

Work with kids and at least one of these characters looks familiar.  I definitely know hippo.  One of my son’s friends will carefully explain that because he is bigger he deserves more.  He NEEDS it.  Then there’s my niece aka the outspoken squirrel.  I am little and I am mighty.  You’d think Santat had spent time in my dining room.

Because this is another of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! early readers, the text is super simple.  The illustrations don’t build on it, as they would in a picture book, but they do give young, inexperienced readers the clues they need to decipher unfamiliar words.

As always, Santat’s illustrations are humorous and expressive.  As simple and straightforward as they look, there are always plenty of clues for young readers to use the gauge what is going on in a character’s head.

If you have a young reader who is working to decipher words for him or herself, request this book at your library. The text is simple and straightforward.  The characters are silly.  It will pull your new reader in and help to develop the skills needed to tackle longer books.


September 30, 2016

We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:52 am by suebe2

we-are-growingWe Are Growing!
by Laurie Keller
Hyperion Books for Children

I have to admit that I was initially confused when I saw this one.  I had seen it advertised as a Mo Willems book but here was a different author’s name.  Now that the last book in the Elephant and Piggie series has been published (last as in there will be no more), the two characters will continue to appear at the beginning and ending of books in the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series.  These parts of each book are written by Willems.  The main story is written by someone else.

This time around, Laurie Keller has written a story about eight friends. They are growing fast and changing every moment.  One is the tallest.  Another the curliest. Then there’s the one who is the silliest.  Each spread challenges children knew to reading to decipher a pair of words, tall and tallest, curly and curliest, etc.

But the last friend can’t figure out where he excels.  Everyone else is the best at something.  What is his special skill?

Now, you’ve probably looked at the top right and seen the cover of the book.  Yep.  The eight friends are indeed blades of grass.  Well, seven of them are.  The second from the right end has a surprise in store for everyone.

As is always the case with early readers, the illustrations help new readers decipher the text.  The illustrations are simple enough not to distract from the text but still loads of fun.  Obviously there has to be plenty of humor to get readers to watch grass grow.

The book design is also clever.  SPOILER ALERT.  SKIP THE REST OF THE PARAGRAPH IF MY REVEALING THE ENDING WILL FREAK YOU OUT. By the time the story ends, the last blade of grass has figured out that he is the neatest.  He proves it by sweeping things up – including the page numbers.  

This book is silly and fun and will keep your young reader turning the pages as they seek to find out what is so special about that last blade of grass.  Pick this one up for your young reader today.


February 3, 2015

Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:18 pm by suebe2

Waiting is Not Easy (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Readers will know something is up as soon as Piggie somersaults onto the page.  He has a surprise for Elephant but he won’t say what it is.  It is an understatement to say that Elephant does not wait patiently.  He wines.  He gripes.  He gets a little nasty, but still Piggie won’t end the waiting.  He simply reassures his friend that it will be worth it.

And it is.

The surprise is the awe-inspiring beauty of a star-filled night sky, something Piggie couldn’t have rushed even if he wanted to.  The best part of it is that Elephant gets it.  Once he has shared in the surprise he completely and totally gets it and comes up with an equally amazing something to share with his best friend.

I love the characters in the Elephant and Piggie books.  While one has a trunk and big ears and the other has a curly tail, they are obviously real children in their behaviors and their attitudes.  This is a big part of the reason that young readers identify with these characters.  Somewhere in the pair, young readers see themselves.

If you aren’t familiar with the Elephant and Piggie books, these are early readers, suitable for kids who are just learning to read on their own.  Willems’ expressive illustrations show the characters’ emotions so clearly that they provide top-notch clues to words that some reader may be struggling to decipher.

That said, as much as these books appeal to new readers, they are also good for reading aloud simply because of the character’s silliness and expressive behavior.  Pick up an Elephant and Piggie book to share with a young book lover in your life, but don’t forget to read it yourself.  They really are fun!


December 18, 2013

A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:45 am by suebe2

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems

Piggie runs to Gerald (Elephant) in hysterics.  She found a ball, a wonderful big ball, and was having so much fun with it.  Then along came a big guy and . . . took her ball.  As always, Elephant is the problem solver of the pair.  “Why do big guys get to have all the fun?” he asks.  Because he is a big guy, he won’t have to be afraid of another big guy and he sets off to get Piggies ball back.

The problem is that Elephant is no longer the biggest guy around because the other big guy is a whale.

Piggie is a little annoyed and Elephant is a lot embarrassed when he returns without the ball, but then the two get a surprise.

It was the whale’s ball all along.  But it isn’t much fun because no one will play with him.  He is too big and everyone is afraid.  “Little guys get to have all the fun,” says the whale.

Elephant and Piggie prove that everyone can have fun when they invent a new game — Whale Ball.

As always, I love Elephant and Piggie.  They may be a talking Elephant and a talking Pig but they are so real.  There is never a doubt in my mind that Mo Willems pays attention to children, their problems and their takes on life.  Moms read this and are nodding their heads because we’ve all been through “I found it and now it’s mine” as well as “A big guy took it away.”

The other thing to love is Willems’ illustrations.  They are so simple with heavy black lines and just enough color to bring it all to life but his characters are so expressive.  Take a look at the pair and you know beyond a doubt when Piggie is worried and Elephant is ashamed.  Or Piggie is happy and Elephant is mad.

If you aren’t familiar with Elephant and Piggie, pick up a few of these early readers.  Your young reader will enjoy a book he can puzzle through himself even as he enjoys fun characters who solve their own problems and are fun and funny at the same time.



March 13, 2012

Should I Share My Ice Cream by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:37 am by suebe2

Should I Share My Ice Cream: An Elephant & Piggie Book
by Mo Willems

Willems brilliantly simple illustrations easily show Elephant’s joy at encountering an ice cream cart on a hot day.  But then Elephant thinks of Piggie and things get complex very quickly.

Piggie loves ice cream but Piggie isn’t there.

Should Elephant find Piggie and over to share?  Or should Elephant simply eat the yummy treat.  Its not like Piggie will ever know.  But what if Piggie is someplace sad and lonely?  Ice cream would cheer Piggie up.

Elephant hems and haws.  Elephant waffles.  And, the reader sees it coming in the illustrations, Elephant’s ice cream melts and falls with a sickening splat.

Now Elephant is sad and alone with no ice cream.

Fortunately, along comes Piggie who just happens to have an ice cream cone — an ice cream cone to share.

As a beginning reader, both Willems text and illustrations are deceptively simple.  In its depths, this is a story about friendship.  Sometimes,  when you are a friend, you give comfort.  Other times, you take it even though you may not feel like you deserve it.

Because the text is so simple, the emotional depth comes through the illustrations.  Elephant is clearly joyful, thoughtful, hesitant, worried, sneaky, determined, sorrowful, and so very grateful.

This is an excellent choice for a new reader, an ice cream lover, or someone who simply adores Elephant & Piggie.


March 7, 2012

Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:51 pm by suebe2

ImageHappy Pig Day! (An Elephant & Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books

Pig just can’t wait to share the fun with his buddy, Elephant.  Today is the best day ever — it is Pig Day.  What can you expect to do on Pig Day?  Sing Pig songs, play pig games and eat pig foods.  Basically, have a great time.

But when a sounder of swine shows up (that’s a group of pigs!), Elephant feels left out and goes off to have a good mope.  Fortunately, Pig is a good friend and asks what is wrong.

The big reveal?  (I am so trying not to ruin the plot twist here.)  Pig Day is for Everyone!

As always, Willems has created a fun read-aloud in which young readers will clearly see themselves.  Who hasn’t felt left out?  Who hasn’t accidentally hurt a friend’s feelings?

Don’t read this paragraph if you’re worried about plot spoilers.  As much as I love Elephant and Pig, I wish that something a bit different had been done with the twist.  I don’t like that other characters had to appear to be something that they aren’t (pigs).  In Willem’s defense, very few young readers (this book is targeted to ages 4 to 8) would get that out of it.  They would simply think, “Dress up!  What fun!”

And it is a fun book and can easily spark a series of discussions with your young reader.  What does it take to be a good friend?  What do we celebrate?  Why were they disguised as pigs?

Give this one to your young reader and see what they have to say.


February 1, 2011

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:00 am by suebe2

We Are in a Book!

by Mo Willems

Hyperion, 2010

Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are at it again.  Gerald is the first one to notice that something is up.  In fact, someone . . . or something . . .  may be watching them.

Piggie, always the bolder of the two, investigates and discovers the truth — the pair is being watched.  But not by a monster.  They are being watched by a reader.

The situation is cool enough to overcome Gerald’s reserved nature and soon he is turning flips and plotting with Piggie to play a trick on the reader.  What kind of trick?  You’ll have to take the chance of being victimized to find out.

Think you can outsmart a cartoon pig and a cartoon elephant?  Maybe you can and maybe you can’t but either way you’re sure to have a good laugh.

Although our family still reads at bedtime, we very seldom read aloud anymore, instead each reading our own book.  Willems’ book simply cries to be read out loud and soon my son and I were leaning on each other laughing aloud.  When we finished, he took the book from me and read it again.  You’ll see why when you read it for yourself.

Beginning readers are essential.  The deceptively simple texts lure inexperienced readers into turning the pages until the story is done.  Very few are so good that you want to read them again and again and share them with a friend.  Willems’ book is one of the best.

Be sure to pick up a copy for the young reader in your life who enjoys a good laugh and may need a nudge to gain some confidence in their own reading skills.  Willems, Gerald and Piggie deliver.


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