Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems

We are celebrating Picture Book Month in November and I had to write about my very favorite author for children, Mo Willems. He started writing children's picture books after a successful career with Sesame Street, winning 6 Emmy awards for his writing. He's been a stand up comedian, creator of shows for Cartoon Network, and commentator for the BBC. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus was his first children's book and one of his most beloved. He's going to go down in history for being known as the author who made children scream at his a good way.

This past week I read aloud his new Elephant and Piggie book, Happy Pig Day! to my students. I tell my kids the story of how some librarians (not THIS librarian) and critics poo-pooed his nomination for a Caldecott Honor book with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, saying that his drawings were too simplistic.

Oh, you should have heard the outcry! Case in point...just look at the cover of Happy Pig Day! and tell us that you don't know exactly what each one of the characters are feeling. Look at elephant, what is he feeling? Exactly, sad and left out! Have you ever felt left out? We all have! What does that feel like?

Great, great discussions come from these "simplistic" books. Every time I read one of his books, I hear a chorus of "read it again, read it again!". If you want a fun book for an emerging reader, these are it! The really cool part is when we do read it again and the children can almost read it word for word by themselves!

Then, the kids go to the drawing software on the computers and we learn how to draw the characters using shapes. When they start to draw, we've already talked about how he shows us a character is angry, or excited, or moving...they all know the answers just by looking at his amazing illustrations. They get so excited that they can draw just like the illustrator!

One of my teacher's daughter made an entire book of Pigeon all by herself. I was so excited because I don't often get to see the results of our short time together. I was delighted, to say the least. 

So, be sure to pick up a Mo Willems picture book and read it aloud, even if it's to yourself!

As my kids say at the end of each read aloud, "Yay books!".

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