Catching up with the New Yorker recently, I not only laughed out loud at Rivka Glachen’s profile of children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems – Funny Failures – but also connected to this children’s author’s wry outlook. I needed to find his books.
A quick search showed ninety-eight of his titles in my local library system, so I returned to the article to note those highlighted in the five page article. Two have won Caldecott Honors – Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (2004) and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (2005). Another I added, just to meet the elephant and the pig in We Are in a Book.
Knuffle Bunny may remind you of the last time you lost something in the laundry; the pigeon is hilarious – what’s the first thing any child wants to do when told not to? As for the elephant and the pig, I dare you not to say “BANANA” when you read their book.
Although Willems’ books are identified as Easy Readers, in the same vein as Eric Carle or P.D. Eastman, his animals are funny in their anxiety and resilient in their failures – a lesson for adults as well as children. Give yourself a laugh; find Mo Willems.
When a Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist get together to produce a children’s book, you know you are in for a good one. Lois Lowry and Eric Rohmann collaborated on Bless This Mouse – the tale of a church mouse who leads her followers to safe haven.
Hildegarde, the mouse mistress of St. Bartholomew’s Church, not only protects her flock of over 200 church mice but she also manages to educate them and the reader with lessons on the correct vocabulary for different sections of the church building – the narthex, transept, nave. Rohmann conveniently includes a graphic for reference, and her resident scholar mouse, Ignatius, a former university library mouse, delivers important research information on the latest mousetraps – scented glue.
When a group of adolescent mice run wild in plain sight of the sacristy ladies, Father Murphy decides to call the exterminator. Hildegarde’s preventative measures include eating the telephone book so he won’t have the phone number, but the mice mistakenly look for “the Great X” under “x” instead of “ex,” and they are forced to evacuate in the great “exodus” to the church cemetery to wait until the church is safe to reenter.
Lowry humorously personifies her characters with human foibles and misplaced pride, and includes a reconnaissance mission with 52 mice carrying 52 playing cards to disarm the glue traps. She neatly wraps up the narrative with Father Murphy’s blessing of the animals, including Hildegarde, on the feast of St. Francis – with a lively negotiation between the mouse leader and the priest at the end.
With Lowry’s narrative and Rohmann’s illustrations, Bless This Mouse is a winning combination – a good book to read aloud – and definitely one that will make you laugh out loud.