Thank You, Mo Willems
SHARED by: Katherine Grier, Librarian at York Avenue Preschool
The 25th—and final—Elephant & Piggie book by Mo Willems was released at the beginning of May. We have multiple copies of the other Elephant & Piggie books in the YAP library and they are without a doubt the most circulated books we own. They also are the ones most often read aloud at story time. So, on behalf of our preschool, I’d like to say “Thank YOU, Mo Willems,” for inspiring so many children (and the grown-ups in their lives) to laugh, gasp and express different emotions, and, of course, to read your books again and again and again! I will miss having another Elephant & Piggie book to look forward to sharing with my students, but I will take comfort in knowing I have 25 great E&P stories to continue reading with them. Here, I discuss The Thank You Book and 3 of my other favorites (which all coincidentally won ALA Geisel Awards when they first came out). And if you are a Mo Willems fan, I definitely recommend that you check out the “Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems” Exhibition at the New York Historical Society through September 25, 2016.
In The Thank You Book, Gerald and Piggie (and their fans) have a chance to say goodbye to Snake, Brian Bat, and other character/friends they’ve made throughout the Elephant & Piggie series. By way of his cartoon art and simple text, Willems has done a fine job wrapping everything up in a way that is true to the rest of the books. For example:
- Gerald worries and Piggie stays calm and collected.
- The text is expressive and perfect for reading out loud in dramatic ways.
- The illustrations emphasize Gerald and Piggie’s facial expressions and body language and are naturally hilarious.
- There is a double layer twist at the end of the story.
As a result, I found a lot to be thankful for in this final book.
We Are in a Book is the first (and, in my opinion, one of the best) in the Elephant & Piggie series. In it, Elephant and Piggie realize that someone is looking at them. At first, they worry that it is a monster but then understand that it is the reader of the book in which they are characters. Safe with this knowledge, they soon discover that they have the power to control what their reader says depending on what words appear in the word bubbles on each page. This leads to their making the reader say funny words like “Banana,” which sends them both into fits of laughter! The illustration on page 20 of Gerald with his glasses falling off because he laughing so hard is priceless and is sure to have you and your children belly-laughing. You will still be smiling twenty or so pages later when Gerald and Piggie realize that the book is about to end and try to figure out a way to get the reader to keep reading.
Waiting is Not Easy! is easily the most visually moving story in the Elephant & Piggie series despite the static nature of its theme. At the start, Piggie excitedly announces to Gerald that he has a surprise for him. Gerald pumps Piggie for information and learns that the surprise is big, and pretty, and they can share it; but Piggie insists that the “surprise is a surprise,” and Gerald will have to wait. As the day drags on and the waiting continues, Gerald gets increasingly frustrated, and lets out several almighty “GROANS!” His groans are so big, in fact, that they fill the whole page and literally knock Piggie to the ground! At twilight, Gerald is upset that he has waited the whole day and still does not know “for WHAT!” The reader and Gerald then see a spectacular, photo-collaged image of the Milky Way that dwarfs the two friends and makes it clear to all that the surprise at the end of this tale was indeed worth the wait.
After reading There Is a Bird on Your Head! a few times, you will see that there is a lot going on in this one little book. It is a story I like to read every Spring that is ultimately about honesty, finding the silver lining in everything and asserting yourself, but it also has a very funny plot that lets kids explore nature and the sensation of having a bird (or two or five) on your head. As usual, the story is jam-packed with a wide range of emotions—from joy to frustration, to anger and acceptance. And of course, it is also a story of friendship. It even is a bit of a love story. All in all, There is a Bird on Your Head! is a cute, funny and engaging read.