After publishing twenty-five books of which two won a Theodor Seuss Geisel medal and five won honors for best Beginning Reader of the year, it is clear that Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series has been a huge success. Sadly in 2016, the world said good-bye to the dynamic duo with The Thank You Book. But do not fear, Elephant and Piggie now live on in a new collaborative series called Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! Mo Willems has teamed up with a variety of authors and illustrators including Laurie Keller, Charise Mericle Harper, and Caldecott winner Dan Santat to create a new Easy Reader series. Unlike other series that usually center around the same characters, the common thread in this series is the introduction and wrap up by Elephant and Piggie. In a recent interview with Mo Willems, he commented that the general idea behind the series is that Elephant and Piggie are retired and are now sharing the books that they love to read in their spare time with others.
Similar to the original Elephant and Piggie series, the stories are told mostly through speech bubbles with a variety of punctuation and different size text. There are also visual clues from the emotions displayed on the characters’ faces and through their body language to help budding readers practice reading with feeling. While each story ranges in the storyline, style, and reading level, they are all funny and will most likely be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
We are Growing by Laurie Keller, 2016
(Ages 4 – 8)
Whoever thought grass could be so funny? Large text accompanied by lots of onomatopoeia tell the story of eight blades of grass who find themselves growing in all different ways. Each shoot has a distinct personality or feature that makes them the tallest, curliest, silliest, etc. Poor Walt is the last to grow and struggles to figure out what he is. When they are all cut shorter by a lawn mower, Walt discovers his own talent. While the others are at first distraught after being cut down, their mood quickly changes when two insects point out that they will grow again. This is a fun book filled with clever humor, repeated text, and simple sentences to build literacy skills, and it has a great message of resilience and celebrating everyone’s uniqueness. It is no wonder the book won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for best Easy Reader in 2017.
The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat, 2016
(Ages 4 to 8)
Santat, who won a Caldecott Award in 2015 for The Adventures of Beekle, works his magic again in this new Easy Reader that not only helps children practice reading skills, but also introduces important math concepts. When there are three cookies for four friends, they must decide how to divide the cookies fairly. Comical arguments ensue on just how the cookies should be distributed. Hippo, who breaks things when he is nervous, accidentally splits the cookies into pieces promoting a discussion on fractions. Luckily the cookies are eventually broken in equal parts for all to enjoy… until a cow enters with three glasses of milk. A funny story with expressive illustrations that are sure to make children laugh. Adults will also appreciate the humor, especially Elephant’s epiphany at the end when he becomes thirsty and hungry after reading the book and states, “good books make me feel big things…” So true. This book makes me feel happy that there are so many great new Easy Readers to help children grow their love of reading.
The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper, 2017
(Ages 4 to 8)
When a yellow bird presents a red button to two other birds, he declares that the button does nothing. When the other birds press the button, they feel a range of emotions from surprise, to sadness, to happiness, etc. creating the conclusion that feelings are something and that instead of the button doing nothing it in fact does everything. As with the other two books in the series, this story repeats many of the same text allowing the reader to build confidence with their new literacy skills while enjoying a humorous story.