Author/Editor Comments from BEA:
I got to hear Mo Willems and the two authors discuss these books on a panel at BEA. Mo knew it was time to end the Elephant & Piggie series. He wanted them to go into retirement, and since people often spend a lot of time reading during retirement, he thought it would be nice to have a new series of be the books that Elephant & Piggie are reading in their retirement.
Mo wanted all of the books to dialog driven and comedy driven, like the original series. He found the whole process freeing because he could do things that he wouldn't do with Elephant & Piggie, i.e. hard knowledge (math) in The Cookie Fiasco. These new stories came from the new authors themselves, and Mo was pretty proud of the funny stories they'd created. They worked on the books together over Skype, and Mo helped a lot with the pacing of the books (i.e. when Walt falls down in We Are Growing, he suggested adding a beat for the "Thud").
Dan Santat came to Mo with 5 ideas. He'd never written an early reader, and because the format is longer, he felt like he could stretch the ideas out. These books are twice the length of a picture book, and that made it a lot of fun. Dan has experience with graphic novels, so he loves having the pictures tell half of the story.
Mo liked 2 of his ideas and made them better (i.e. changing passive voice to active voice). He thought it was a really great learning experience. Mo was very helpful and never said, "it should be this," he just gave suggestions. The Cookie Fiasco is about justice and fairness. Because of the large cast, Dan tried very hard to give them all equal time - his own neuroses of justice coming out in his work. I loved listening to him talk about the hippo's character and how he couldn't stop breaking the cookies because he was so nervous.
Laurie Keller has written many picture books, and she was used to writing wordy text. This was her first time writing an early reader, and she said it was challenging to trim down to just a few words. Her favorite part to write is always the dialog, so she loved writing only that part. These books are intentionally all dialog, so they can be read together by the parent and child. Mo suggested that parents read them slowly on purpose, so that maybe the kids will jump in and start reading.
Laurie also learned a lot from Mo during this process. She was taking it all very seriously, so Mo suggested the character of the weed, and then the weed became her favorite character. We Are Growing is about discovering who you are.
Laurie has the idea to put Pigeon in her book, so now it will be in every book. (Dan had to go back and add him in to The Cookie Fiasco.) Then Dan had the idea of the 3-D characterized heads of the authors on the back cover. It definitely sounded like they all had a lot of fun creating these books.
The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #1) by Dan Santat
To be published on September 20, 2016.
Four friends. Three cookies. One problem.
Hippo, Croc, and the Squirrels are determined to have equal cookies for all! But how? There are only three cookies . . . and four of them! They need to act fast before nervous Hippo breaks all the cookies into crumbs!
This book completely captures the spirit of the Elephant & Piggie series. The large dialog to show emotions is the same. The characters are just as endearing, and the serious problem needing to be solved is so fun. There are four friends and only three cookies. How can they divide them equally?
I especially love how this issue in the story is essentially a math problem. I always loved math, and I enjoy when math is introduced in ways that aren't always noticed. Kids can learn to solve these real life "word problems" in a fun way.
I know this is a book we will read over and over again. It makes a great independent read for early readers, and it would be a terrific read aloud for younger kids. The intro and closing with Elephant & Piggie is wonderful too. It really ties it to the original series for younger readers who are missing their favorite characters.
My Rating: 5 stars
We Are Growing (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #2) by Laurie Keller
To be published on September 20, 2016.
Walt and his friends are growing up! Everyone is the something-est. But . . . what about Walt? He is not the tallest, or the curliest, or the silliest. He is not the anything-est! As a BIG surprise inches closer, Walt discovers something special of his own!
This book is cute. Eight blades of grass are growing. They're so proud of themselves. It's adorable. Then they start to notice their differences: one is curliest, one is tallest, two are pointiest, etc. But the last one, Walt, doesn't know what he is. When the lawn mower comes along, he is finally able to determine what he is.
This story is creative and fun, but to me it felt a little bit more geared towards a younger audience (ages 3-5) with all of the adjectives. It's still a fun read - independently (ages 6-8) or as a read aloud (ages 3-5) - but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as The Cookie Fiasco.
My Rating: 4 stars
I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.
On the blog last year...
Adjusting to a new schedule
Book Review: The Truth According to Us