Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elephant and Piggie

As I was checking out an armload of books in the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems, the librarian commented on how much children seemed to like them. "They're not boring like other early readers," she concluded, handing me my books with a smile. I knew what she meant, even if I didn't completely agree with her. Some early readers are tough going, with sentences upon sentence to plow through before reaching a payoff. The Elephant & Piggie books offer readers something fun on every page.

The format helps with this. The only text is dialogue set in balloon bubbles. The stories read more like a play than a traditional storybook with "he saids" and "she saids" on every other line. This speeds up the pace and keeps those pages turning.

Humorous illustrations are another plus. Big and bold, the two main characters fill the page with not much else in way of background, keeping the reader's attention focused on the main action. As for the stories, they are clever and always fresh. Reading them, I was constantly surprised--and amused--at how the stories were resolved. Using a bare minium of props, Mo Willems manages to pull rabbit after rabbit (and occasionally an elephant) out of his bag of tricks.

Two of the early readers are winners of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. There Is a Bird on Your Head is the 2008 winner and Are You Ready to Play Outside? won for 2009.

Elephant has a problem. He has a bird on his head. Then he has two birds, then a nest, then eggs that hatch into three baby chicks. Elephant becomes increasingly upset until Piggie offers a suggestion. Why not politely ask the bird family to leave? It works! Off they fly, nest and all--relocating on Piggie's porcine head.  

Piggie is ready to play outside. His plans include running, skipping, and jumping with Elephant. Nothing can stop them. Then the first drop falls and soon it is pouring. What's a pig to do? Throw a tantrum apparently. Then Elephant points to some worms enjoying the rainy day. Taking their cue from them, Elephant and Piggie splash it up in the rain. They have a great time. Until the rain stops. Piggie is about to go into another funk when his friend Elephant helps out with a shower--from his trunk. 

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