Childrens’ Books of the Week: Elephant and Piggie
Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems
Ok, I am so embarrassed to admit that I only learned a few weeks ago that Mo Willems, author of the wonderments of Knuffle Bunny and the Pigeon books, has written a series of Easy Readers. Of course he has. Who better than Mo Willems to understand the beauty of the Easy Reader, to know how to write something that is both easy to read AND well written? Maybe you all know about these already. But now that Henry can mostly read, we are re-exploring the Easy Reader section of our library, not as a bunch of quickie-quick chapter books, but as books he can actually read.
Let me tell you something. These books are FUNNY. The first time Henry read I Will Surprise My Friend, which he could read by himself, albeit slowly, he laughed so hard he had to stop and catch his breath. The fourteenth time, and I was reading it aloud at this point, he still laughed so hard he wasn’t even making sounds. (Ok, part of it may have been my dramatic reading, but really, these are funny.) So far we’ve read Are You Ready to Play Outside?, There is a Bird on Your Head! and I Will Surprise My Friend. Every single one is a gem. I think that Easy Readers might be the hardest type of childrens’ book to write. You want the kid to be able to read it and not get frustrated, but how many times can they read about Timmy and his puppy before they want to host a book burning party? I give points for books with surprising plots, extra extra points for books that are funny (funny is very hard to do), and special also extra bonus points for throwing in one word that the kid doesn’t know and will be more smartypants if they do know (ok, that’s not an Easy Reader requirement so much as a childrens’-book-in-general desire: how hard is it to throw in an “exasperated” or a “wanton” or a “brouhaha”?).
Willems totally nails the funny bare-bones plot, and, even more, the facial expressions. Get these for your three-year-old, and then continue to administer frequently. Your kid will get them more and more as he or she gets older. And you’ll like them plenty the whole time.