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.


December 4, 2015

Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:26 am by suebe2

Amanda and Her Alligator
written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins

Amanda and Alligator are best friends.  Unfortunately, Alligator gets left behind when Amanda goes out.  When this happens, he paces and fiddles with his tale.  Alligator is not very good at waiting.

Still he’s a good friend.  When Amanda surprises him with a BOO!, he wants to surprise her back.  But BOO! does work nearly so well when the other person is expecting it.  Alligator has to think of something else.  After all, he’s a good friend like that.

When Grandpa takes Amanda to the zoo, Alligator gets left behind yet again.  He paces.  He fiddles with his tail.  He tries to eat a book.  Finally, Amanda comes back but Alligator is pretty sure he doesn’t like the surprise she brings home with her.  Panda is huge and fluffy and doesn’t look like he came from the sale bucket.

Alligator is still trying to reconcile himself with this interloper when Amanda announces that she’s leaving again.  Grandpa, it seems, wants to take her to dinner.

Now Panda and Alligator are waiting together.  The biggest surprise?  He may be fluffy and cute, but he doesn’t like waiting either.

Again, I’m not going to give the ending away.

As always Willems’ illustrations convey a ton of emotion while being very simple.  Like Knuffle Bunny, also by Mo Willems, Alligator is a stuffed animal.  Willems’ doesn’t exactly say this but you get that feeling when you see him sitting in the corner of the room.  But Willem respects Alligator too much to point out his stuffed-animalness.  Alligator, after all, is very real to Amanda and to Willems.  My favorite illustration is probably when Alligator chews on Amanda’s head.  Seriously, it is silly and fun and you have to see it.

The book is divided into 6 1/2 stories.  They call them stories.  I would call them chapters.  But that’s not important.

The design of this book is masterful with all kinds of little things that many people wouldn’t notice.  At the beginning of the book, the end papers feature Amanda and Alligator.  At the end, they feature Amanda, Alligator and Panda.  This is a masterful stroke, because above all this is a book about friendship.  It isn’t only about how to be a good friend but how to add friends.

Share it with the young reader in your life today.


October 12, 2015

Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:18 am by suebe2

Don’t Push the Button
written and illustrated by Bill Cotter

It starts on page one when Larry the monster warns the readers “Don’t push the button.”  The warnings get stronger and stronger until Larry just can’t stand it.  He has to know what happens when someone does push the button.  What could possibly go wrong?

Larry has all the sass of Mo Willem’s Pigeon (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Busand just as clearly recognizes both that sass and a few defiant tendencies in young readers.  But don’t think he is just Pigeon in a monster suit.  Although Larry speaks directly to the reader, as does Pigeon, the reader actually gets to take part in Larry’s story.

Seriously, be ready for some eager button pushing once your young story lover discovers that pushing it once changed Larry from purple to neon yellow and pushing it a second time gives him spots.  You may have to brace the book.  I’m not joking.

Cotter’s mixed media art work is bright and engaging.  Young readers will be attracted to both the fun, bright colors but also the simple forms.  As is so often the case, the eyes have it — emotion that is.  The drawings may be simple but Larry manages to be happy, sincere and scared all at appropriate times.

Because, as with all great picture books, this is about more than who can really push a button.  It is a story about consequences, exploration and adventure all wrapped up in a very simple package.


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.



April 22, 2013

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:24 am by suebe2

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
by Mo Willems
AR 4.9

Have you read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus lately?  If not, then its time to pick up a copy to celebrate the book’s 10th anniversary.

This is one of those tongue-in-cheek books where the characters interact not with each other, but with the reader.  First on is, not the pigeon, but the bus driver.  He’s going on a break and will be right back and you, the reader, are to keep a certain feathered fowl from driving his beloved bus.

Good luck!

Why do you need luck?  Because Pigeon is no common fowl.  He will beg. He will plead.  He will demand.  And, if all else fails, he will throw one unholy tantrum.

Young readers are going to have no problem whatsoever identifying with Pigeon.  He wants so very badly to drive the bus and no one will let him.  These same readers will also be pulled in by Willems’ drawings.  Adults — do not be fooled.  They look crude and overly simple but Willems is a pro at getting emotion and action from broad black lines and some simple color.  Page through the book and you will see what I mean.  You don’t have to read one single word and you will still know exactly what emotion Pigeon is feeling and this bird is an emotional powder keg.

It’s hard to believe that this book is already ten years old.  Pick up a copy today and prepare to laugh with the young book lover  in your life.



March 16, 2012

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems

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

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed
by Mo Willems
AR 2.8

How on earth can anyone make naked mole rats funny?  When I learned that Willems had a book on the topic, I knew he would try, but would he succeed?  True confession:  Naked mole rats  kind of creep me out.

Or at least they did.

In Willems’ world, there are three things you need to know about naked mole rats:

  1. They are a little bit rat.
  2. They are a little bit mole.
  3. They are all naked . . . with one exception.

Wilbur, you see, is a misfit among naked mole rats.  He actually enjoys getting dressed.  Now, there really isn’t much funny about a naked mole rat in a suit, but the humor comes on strong when the other naked mole rats react.  Honestly, imagine how people react to nudity and you’ve got the picture.



“What are you doing?”

“Naked mole rats don’t wear clothes!”

To this, Wilbur has only one response.  “Why not?”

The other naked mole rats are so disturbed by Wilbur’s refusal to do things the right, appropriate and obviously moral way, that they go tattle to Grand-pah.  (Seriously, I think I know  these little rats.)

When Grand-pah announces that he will make a proclamation, Wilbur knows things have gotten very serious.  He debates wearing a suit, a Zoro-like hero outfit, and a cowboy outfit. Finally, he decides to be like the other naked mole rats or at least as close as he can tolerate.

The crowd is so put off by Wilbur’s inability to get it right even now that they don’t notice Grand-pah’s arrival.  Grand-pah, you see, has been converted.

Willems brings his trademark humor to yet another picture book.  He doesn’t preach.  He doesn’t lecture, yet kids will definitely learn a few things about diversity and not getting worked up about the things that make each of us unique, especially if these things don’t harm anyone else.

This book may not have the action that we are told to look for in a book for reluctant readers but a lot of kids will love the humor in naked animals vs clothed animals and the human behavior of the naked mole rats.

Now, who can I buy this for?



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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