Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dive Into Reading with Mo Willems

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a book signing at The King’s English Bookshop, where Mo Willems read his new book, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.  It is always a treat to hear an author read their own books, and he was no exception.  He was funny and quirky, a true representation of the books he writes and the line around the block was proof of his broad appeal to kids and adults.

We love Mo Willems' books at our house.  It started with Knuffle Bunny (pronounced k-nuffle), we added Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct and Leonardo the Terrible Monster.  Then we picked up Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed and Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!.  Last year for Mother's Day, the kids presented me with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? and with a new reader in the house, we are now collecting the Elephant & Piggie books.

REALLY?!?  How many Mo Willems books do we need?  I guess the answer is very simple . . . supply and demand.  The kids love them, thus we will continue to fill our shelves.  I have had I Broke My Trunk on my shelf for over a year and thought it was cute, but didn’t think I would be rushing out to buy more.  Then I read it with my 5-year-old.  Or, rather, she read it to me.  She laughed out loud and wanted to read it again. 

What is it about Mo Willems that is so compelling?  When I looked at the sheer volume of Elephant and Piggie books, I just shrugged them off as being a little gimmicky – but now, I own 6 of them and we are excited for the new arrival, Let’s Go for a Drive, that comes out next month.

Where Dr. Seuss has rhymes, Mo Willems has mini plays.  He is accomplished at making you feel like you are watching a show, and if you could put just down the book, you could act out the scenes yourself.  Elephant and Piggie become these compelling and real characters who are just going about their day, living their lives – and when funny things happen, you get to watch!

These books are a little long (57 pages), but with good repetition and bursts of unexpected humor – it works.  The interaction between Gerald and Piggie is accomplished entirely with speech bubbles.  There are no unnecessary “he said” or “she said’s.”  The pictures show the action and the speech bubbles convey the rest.  There is no doubt about how Piggie is feeling when she yells,  “HOW DID YOU BREAK YOUR TRUNK!?!” with arms flapping in complete frustration or the embarrassment of Elephant when he finishes his story and says “. . . and broke my trunk.”  

These are not sterile stories.  Even the youngest readers are drawn into reading with emotion as the font size changes to extra big (for emphasis) or extra small (for shyness) and italics are added.  Whether you are a little withdrawn and careful like Elephant, or you are creative and bold like Piggie, you are sure to find something to smile about.   

*If you have never picked up an Elephant & Piggie book, I recommend I Broke My Trunk! or Can I Play Too? (my 5-year-old also loves Happy Pig Day!).   


  1. It was such fun to be with you ladies! With a 5 year old in our house, the Elephant and Piggies are prevalent here as well!

  2. I just read Let's Go for a Drive with my kindergartner. She had to find the pigeon before we could read the book, of course, and then she laughed at Piggie's excitement and Gerald's exuberance. What makes me laugh is Mo Willems' ability to state the obvious in such a surprising way. "I am a pig. A pig with a car would be silly."