A few weeks ago, one of my storytime Dads asked if his son could come with his Boy Scout troop for a tour of the library and to read books at storytime (it happened to be the night that one of the Kindergarten girls read a book to the group at the beginning of storytime, and inspired several other kids to want to do the same). We arranged for the troop to come to Family Storytime this week, and I pulled a bunch of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books for them to read.
Elephant and Piggie books are perfect for kids (or adults) to read in pairs, because the text is simple, and usually involves a conversation between the two main characters, Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie (sometimes other characters have a few lines too). The parts are color-coded, making it easy to figure out who is speaking. The stories and illustrations are hilarious, and entertain everyone from toddlers to adults. Plus the kids love looking for the pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, who always shows up somewhere on the end pages at the back of the book.
We ended up with six Scouts, who read three books. I made simple pig and elephant noses out of paper and taped them onto the boys’ noses to indicate which part they were reading. In order to keep the rest of the kids engaged, I also made a few cue cards for some of the words or phrases that were repeated a lot in each book, so they could join in on those. The boys did a wonderful job reading, and didn’t seem to have any qualms about having an audience. Some of them even took on different voices for Elephant and Piggie. The hardest part was getting them to remember to hold up each page slowly for the audience to see, but then I’ve seen adults who struggle with that too. Here is what they read:
I Am Going! by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link) Gerald is horrified when Piggie says she is going, and begs her to stay, until he finds out she is only going to lunch. This book has a page where Gerald chants, “Why?” and I wrote that word on a cue card that I held up on that page so the other kids could join in.
I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
Piggie is excited to receive an invitation to her very first party. Gerald wonders what kind of party it is: a fancy party? A fancy pool party? A fancy costume pool party? They must come prepared! The cue card I made for this one was the word, “PARTY!” which both characters chant together throughout the book. The kids really liked that.
I’m a Frog by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
Gerald is shocked when Piggie says that she is a frog, until she explains she is only pretending. I wrote the word “Ribbit!” on a cue card because Piggie says that throughout the book. There’s also a page where Gerald and Piggie get into an argument consisting solely of: “No I can’t!” and “Yes you can!” I made cue cards for those two phrases too, and the kids enjoyed chanting them back and forth. The adults liked the part where Gerald asks if even grown-ups pretend to be something they’re not, and Piggie says, “All the time,” with a knowing look.
My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
I got to read this one myself, which I was happy about because it was the first Gerald and Piggie book I ever read, and it will always be one of my favorites. When Piggie sees that Gerald is sad, she tries to cheer him up by disguising herself as a cowboy, a clown, and a robot. But Gerald seems sadder than ever. For this one, I made a cue card for Gerald’s repeated, “Ohhh…’s”
Elephants Have Wrinkles
After each verse of this song, I ask the kids where else elephants have wrinkles and we add in a new body part, while singing the song faster and faster. This time the kids suggested teeth (we clicked our teeth together), feet (we stomped our feet), and faces (we patted our cheeks). Click on the triangle for the tune:
Elephants have (pat legs on each syllable)
Wrinkles, Wrinkles, Wrinkles (clap hands on each syllable)
Elephants have (pat legs on each syllable)
Wrinkles (clap hands on each syllable)
Everywhere! (stomp feet on each syllable)
On their nose! Oh-oh! (touch your nose, and mime a trunk)
Elephants have wrinkles…
On their legs! On their nose! Oh-oh!
I Bought Me a Rooster
We have a variety of stuffed animals in the children’s area, so I passed those out, and we sang a verse of the song about each one. I play it on the ukulele in C.
I bought me a rooster and the rooster pleased me
I fed my rooster on the bayberry tree
My little rooster goes, “Cock-a-doodle doo!
C F G7 C
Dee Doodle, Dee Doodle, Dee Doodle, Dee Doo!”
No No No No No! I think this song is also called The Argument. It’s basically the tune to Reverie, but you sing, “No, no, no, no, no” all the way through the first half, while shaking your head, then “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” for the second half while nodding. If you have an older group, you can divide them up and have them sing both parts at the same time.
INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD: Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Rufus Thomas, from Sing Along with Putumayo.
CRAFT: Gerald and Piggie Paper Bag Puppets
I got this idea and the templates from Three Little Birds: http://threelittlebirdsnorth.blogspot.com/2012/04/elephant-and-piggie-party.html. I copied and pasted the picture of their template into a blank Word file, then printed it out, and made copies. The Gerald one worked out well just on white paper, because it ended up looking gray in the copies. For Piggie, I copied it onto pink paper. I did all the cutting ahead of time, so the kids just had to glue the pieces onto paper bags.
OTHER BOOKS BY MO WILLEMS: Okay, so I have a huge librarian crush on Mo Willems. He’s definitely one of my favorite children’s authors, and although he has an astounding number of books, they are all perfect for storytime. Here are some of my other favorites:
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
Before Trixie has learned to talk, she goes with her Dad to the laundromat along with her beloved stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. But on the way home, she realizes that Knuffle Bunny is missing. She tries everything she can to tell her Dad, but he just doesn’t understand. Of course, as soon as Trixie’s mom opens the door, she says, “Where’s Knuffle Bunny?” The whole family races back to the laundromat to look. A book that resonates with both kids and parents. I love Trixie’s attempts to communicate, including going boneless (a phenomenon familiar to anyone with a toddler). The illustrations are equally hilarious. Followed by two sequels: Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free (this one makes me cry).
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems; illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Amazon.com link)
A departure from Willems’ usual funny, cartoonish style, featuring paintings by Jon J. Muth. When a city dog visits the country, he meets a frog who teaches him to play frog games. The two have a wonderful time throughout City Dog’s visits in Spring and Summer. By Autumn Country Frog has grown tired, and in Winter, when City Dog comes, he can’t find his friend, but ends up making a new one. A lovely and bittersweet story about the seasons and friendship.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as Retold by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
Hilariously dark take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In this one, three dinosaurs prepare bowls of chocolate pudding at varying temperatures and go…uh…someplace else, where they are definitely not lying in wait for brazen little girls. The kids love to spot the Pigeon hidden in the cookie jar, and the rejected title ideas on the back, including Goldilocks and the Three Major Networks, Goldilocks and the Three-Foot-Long Hoagies and more.
Cat the Cat, Who is That? by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
Very simple easy reader that introduces Cat the Cat and her friends Fish the Fish, Duck the Duck, Mouse the Mouse. But then she meets someone entirely new: a strange creature who says, “Blargie! Blargie!” This is a fun read-aloud for toddlers, and a great book for beginning readers. Followed by several sequels.
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)
I like the Pigeon, but I love the clever, manipulative Duckling even more. Pigeon is excited to find a hot dog, until a wistful Duckling who claims to have never tried a hot dog asks him to share. There are lots of great Pigeon books, and a fun iPhone/iPad app as well, which allows kids to create their own Pigeon story and learn how to draw the Pigeon (both my kids love it).
What are your favorite Mo Willems books?
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