Mo Willems – When a Pig Meets an Elephant

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.

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Children Get to Know Charles Dickens

Tomorrow is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens!  In honor of the celebration, books about Dickens are everywhere.  The New York Times listed four in their Children’s Books section – “to introduce young readers to {the author} whose life was as fascinating as his  work.”

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (40 pages).

This illustrated story of 12-year-old Dickens making shoe polish to support his family hints that his observations will later bring characters to life in his stories; the story includes pictures of Victorian London.

Charles Dickens: Scenes from an Extraordinary Life by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (48 pages) includes the author’s entire life, including funny anecdotes to endear him to readers, e.g., “Dickens leaping up from his writing desk to check the expressions on his own face as he wrote…”

Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London by Andre Warren (156 pages).  This young adult study focuses on the sad state of the working child, supposing that Dickens’s perceptions brought the issues to public attention; however, the author concentrates more on the welfare of poor children today than the life of the author – too long and off topic.

Charles Dickens: England’s Most Captivating Storyteller by Catherine Wells-Cole (32 pages) sounds wonderful, and it is the one book I decided to buy, since my library has no copy.   Simon Callow describes this illustrated children’s book in his article Getting to Know Charles Dickens:

“…many of {the} features {are} in advent calendar form, with flaps to be opened.  Included is a letter Dickens wrote to his former girlfriend Maria Beadnell: you have to take it out of its envelope to read it…

The book repeatedly brought a smile to my lips, which, after all, is one of the things Dickens most liked to do.”

Children’s Books for Christmas

Lists are everywhere.  This one from the Honolulu Star/Advertiser suggests books for children – all good ideas for gifting.  Click on the title to read my review:

Every Thing On It  by Shel Silverstein

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins

Bumble-Ardy  by Maurice Sendak

And one I haven’t read yet – Goodnight iPad

Happy Mother’s Day

Mothers are underrated and overworked, and usually not appreciated until much later – after their children have children of their own – or after they are dead.   I remember a local tradition on Mother’s Day that I always looked forward to – buy a carnation to celebrate your mother: white if she were dead, pink if alive.

And the classic Mother’s Day book to re-read aloud today…

Are You My Mother?

–  hear it read on YouTube      

My favorite P.D. Eastman book – 

Always a good idea to keep Mother happy…