Tuesday, October 25, 2011


By Mo Willems

(Hyperion Books for Children, 2010)

I love books about books and have previously featured It’s a Book and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. I also love books that break conventions such as Mélanie Watt’s Chester which chronicles a conflict between author/illustrator and a wannabe main character and Watt’s You’re Finally Here! wherein a hyper hare talks directly to the reader. It should come as no surprise then that I am completely taken by Mo Willems’ We Are in a Book!, a book about books with characters that discover a reader is eying them.

This is part of Willems’ easy reader series, following the classics of P.D. Eastman and Dr. Seuss. An elephant named Gerald and a pig referred to as Piggie are the main characters. As the book opens, the elephant suspects someone is watching them.

Piggie moves up for a closer look.

Why, yes, indeed! Someone is watching. It’s…it’s…it’s a reader! A reader is watching AND reading.

Well, this is astonishing to Gerald. Piggie and Gerald decide to have some fun with the reader and, no doubt, the fun will be a mutually shared experience.

Mo Willems draws the elephant and pig simplistically and yet these characters are tremendously expressive, particularly Gerald the elephant whose amusement will become infectious. While Willems does not engage in the playful, sometimes nonsensical rhymes of Dr. Seuss, he masterfully conveys a sense of humor using a limited number of simple words. In fact, I read this book to a group of high school volunteers who have signed up to participate in an after-school reading program at my school. I didn’t know this group of thirty adolescents who were polite, yet a tad weary after a full day of classes. As I read the book, they relaxed. Smiles evolved into laughs and, at the end, the teens applauded.

This is a book that is sure to amuse any reader. Yes, that’s a sweeping statement. Mo Willems is that talented. I am so envious!

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