Mo Willems! He's done it again, creating another perfect blend of pictures and text for young readers. More than any other children's book author alive today, Willems slips most comfortably into Arnold Lobel's shoes. Both are masters at taking seemingly slight incidents and turning them into stories that resonate.
This beginning reader/picture book is made up of 6 1/2 stories about surprises. Each one features Amanda, an avid reader, and her pet alligator, who as we learn in story #4 was purchased for seven cents from a sale bucket. In the story the illustrations show Alligator becoming increasingly insecure as he learns the truth about his origins. Amanda tells her beloved stuffed toy the truth because, as Willems explains in parentheses, "(When friends ask you to tell the truth, you tell the truth.)" (I love parentheses!) Alligator summons up the courage to ask the question; "Why did no one want to buy me?" And Amanda gives the perfect answer: "No one wanted to buy you because they knew you were meant to be my best friend."
In the final story Alligator is put out when Amanda brings home another stuffed toy, a panda that her grandfather bought for her at the zoo. Panda is everything Alligator isn't. Brand new and fluffy, she definitely doesn't look like she came from a sale bucket. Left alone together, the two friends find that they are more alike than different.
As a review in BCCB states, "This is a perfect stealth early reader, a story that will begin as a chapter-by-chapter readaloud and then get converted by the audience when experience and determination make it time to fly solo." Amen. Reserve a space on your bookshelf for Mo Willems's latest.
Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator
by Mo Willems
Balzer + Bray 72 pages
Published: April 2011