by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2008. This is an Elephant and Piggie book for beginning readers. The really wonderful thing about these books is the amount of complexity Willams manages to portray with simple line drawings and minimal text. Gerald the Elephant and Piggie show an amazing range of emotion revealing all the varied interactions of a really deep friendship; affection, confusion, anger, resentment, kindness, forgiveness, perplexity, loyalty, surprise and comfort. All this in a few strokes. The cleverness and humor delights both adults and young children. We just can't get enough Elephant and Piggie over here.
In this volume Piggie has a new mystery toy that neither friend knows exactly what to do with. When Gerald accidentally breaks it they are both horrified. Piggie is really very angry. Gerald apologizes over and over but that is not enough for Piggie. Luckily a friendly squirrel comes along and shows them that it's not really broken - it's supposed to do that! Piggie his happy about that but Gerald still has his feelings hurt from Piggy's anger. He finds a way of forgiveness though, because he really wants to play with his friend more than the toy. How many times have we seen this very drama worked out on the playground and the living room floor? Willems hits on so many of the real issues children deal with and he shows human, graceful, realistic ways to deal with them.
I was amazed to hear from another librarian that she didn't think she should buy these books for the school library because she thought they were for toddlers just based on the front cover. I told her I think they are great for beginning readers. Large print, repetitive, simple text, complex story lines told in brilliantly simple language and evocative illustrations! Even the firm weight of the pages and the solid binding show that it is meant for the earnest, passionate use of beginning readers intent on unlocking the code. In my experience preschool, kindergarten and first graders love them. I told her we had to buy them all for our library and for home. I am sure she just hadn't given them a real look before. I enlightened her immediately and a first grade teacher standing next to us confirmed it.
There are seven titles in the series of Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. I Love My New Toy and I Will Surprise My Friend are nominated for Cybils Easy Reader Awards. Mo Willems shared on his blog that Kirkus named Surprise as a best book of 2008.