She said she said
Over the past several years the works of Mo Willems have slowly achieved a cult like status in our home. My six-year-old twins simply can’t get enough of the crazy antics of Pigeon, Knufflebunny, and of course their very favorite duo, Elephant & Piggie.
In fact, recently I was roped into being the secret reader for my daughter’s first grade class room, and well, through a series of events that are too complicated to recount here, and most of which were NOT my fault, I didn’t show up on agreed upon date and time. Luckily the “mystery” part of mystery reader meant that my daughter didn’t realize that _I_ was the parent responsible for disappointing her entire classroom of twenty or so kids that were eagerly looking forward to their heavily touted story time that day.
Of course when she got home from school she immediately and excitedly started telling me all about how the mystery reader forgot to appear, and how she wanted me to come to school and read, and how I had to bring her favorite Elephant & Piggie book Watch Me Throw the Ball! with me. I was all for rescheduling the date, but I was a little nervous about her choice.
Approaching seven years of age, I thought that maybe this particular book would be a little too young for her class. As the make-up date approached I subtly peppered her with questions around her favorite book in the hope that it may have changed. No dice. Watch Me Throw the Ball! was still clearly at the top of her current favorites list. What’s a dad to do? I grabbed the book and made my way to class.
Long story short, it was a hit. My girl voice for Piggie elicited many laughs and the story was so well received that I was asked to read it a second time. The age range for Willems’ books is listed as 4-8 and even though I was skeptical about this claim, it held true. What struck me as odd, and perhaps a touch tragic, was that only a handful of the kids recognized the pigeon, and none of them had ever heard of Elephant & Piggie before. Even the teacher had to ask me for the author’s name.
Coming out of this positive experience, and knowing my children’s love for his work, there was little hesitance on my part to plunk down the money for Willems’ latest creation, That is NOT a Good Idea! As to be expected, my kids were not disappointed.
Featuring a hungry fox, a plump good, and baby geese, That is NOT a Good Idea! is a hilarious danger-filled tale that ends with the unexpected. Willems’ trademark style of delivering straightforward artwork that even the most crayon-challenged of children could replicate is delightful, and the simple, yet elegant text boxes that accompany it bring to mind the era of silent motion pictures which tends to lend a cinematic feel to the whole experience. There’s also a repetitive refrain that appears throughout the text that immediately drew the kids in and made them feel like part of the story. It wasn’t quite the same as yelling “NO!” to the pigeon, but was almost as fun.
We read the book three times through the first night. On the first pass I did all the voices. The second time my son was the fox, my daughter the goose, and I the baby geese. The final time my daughter was the fox, I was the goose, and my son took on the role of the baby geese. Speaking of that little bird, as always he’s cleverly hidden somewhere within the pages of the story (we didn’t find him until we specifically went looking for him.) Knufflebunny makes a cameo appearance as well.
The final verdict? If you’ve got young ones at home, it is NOT a good idea to NOT read That is NOT a Good Idea! to them. You just might find yourself enjoying it almost as much as they are.
That is Not a Good Idea!
By Mo Willems
Balzer + Bray