Mo Willems Strikes Again

Lynn: Mo Willems is a national treasure.  He is a gladsome spark of brilliance for parents and grandparents of preschoolers/ beginning readers everywhere – providing that miracle of miracles:  books that can be read/listened to a zillion times without driving the grown-up screaming from the room.  Mr. Willems – thank you!  As the grandparent of boys who were are still insanely fond of the Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, Piggy and Gerald, I send my eternal gratitude!  I am sure everyone in America is aware of Willem’s wonderful books by now but we are going to feature two of his newest anyway.

I get to write about a Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator (Harper/Balzer + Bray 2011).  Billed as “6 1/2 Surprising Stories About 2 Surprising Friends,” the my favorite character is Alligator who in the opening story waits for Amanda.  Alligator does not like to wait and he is hoping Amanda will have a surprise for him.  Amanda has been to the library.  (The titles she brought home spool out through the stories and are not to be missed!)  Amanda does have a surprise for Alligator.  “Boo,” she yells.  “EEK,” yells Alligator, “You always bring home the most interesting surprises.”  In the rich tradition of comedians everywhere, Willems then plays variations on that joke, hitting just the right note for the preschool/beginning reader set with friendship the central theme of all the stories.  Carefully selected simple text crafts a satisfying arc for each story and Willems’ signature drawings create characters that fizz with personality.  A treat for kids and grown-ups alike.  And teachers – this is a PERFECT book to use with older students as an introduction or refresher on literary elements before moving on to complex texts.

Cindy: Agreed. I had the good fortune to hear Mo Willems read from the newest pigeon book last summer: The Duckling Gets a Cookie (Hyperion 2011). You can bet that pigeon is jealous when he sees duckling with a chocolate chip cookie…one WITH nuts.

“Hey, How did you get that cookie!?”

“I asked for it. Politely.”

Well, pigeon is not happy. He asks for things all the time.

“I ask to drive the bus.”

“I ask for hot dog parties!”

“It doesn’t have to be a big bus, y’know…”

“Oh yeah, I’m the asking-est pigeon in town! But do I get what I ask for?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Duckling helps him out but even the youngest children will realize that he had an ulterior motive. This is another one that will be read again and again (and my copy already has if the condition of my copy that the focus group just returned is any indication!) Duckling has already won a place in my heart with his flappy, flap, flaps and scooty, scoot, scoots…but really, who can resist the pigeon? There’s a bit of pigeon in every one of us and it is somehow comforting to see our imperfections reflected back to us in a such a fun way. I’ll try to be better…I promise.

 

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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