Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Are You Ready to Play Outside?
An Elephant and Piggie Book

by Mo Willems


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Are You Ready to Play Outside?
An Elephant and Piggie Book

by Mo Willems

Review posted February 25, 2009.
Hyperion Books for Children, 2008. 57 pages.
Starred review.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2008: #5 Picture Books
Geisel Award Winner 2009

Mo Willems is a genius. I am currently reading several books that tell me it is not my circumstances that determine my happiness, but the story I tell myself about those circumstances. I have heard sermons about contentment. I have lectured at length to my children that complaining will only make them unhappy.

None of those things was remotely as effective as this book. Not as funny, either!

Now, I was set up to enjoy this book. The day before I read it, I was doing a quick run to the grocery store. We had expected an ice storm, but instead we got nasty, cold, heavy, near-freezing rain.

I do not like rain in the winter. I tend to think how much I would prefer snow. Rain in winter is almost as cold as snow, but not as pretty, and not as fun. It soaks into your clothes much more quickly, and doesn't brighten a dark day like snow does.

As I came out of the grocery store, the fleeting thought crossed my mind that it was a shame I had to make a grocery run today. Loading groceries into the car in the pouring, cold rain is not a fun thing to do.

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I looked up and saw a mother and son walking toward the store. The mother had an umbrella, but the little boy, about three years old, wasn't paying any attention to staying under it. He was positively dancing with joy at being out in the rain. His shiny yellow boots splashed the pavement with zest, and you could instantly see how excited he was about this wondrous chance to go shopping in the rain!

Kind of put things in perspective for me!

The next day, this book, Are You Ready to Play Outside? came to the library.

Piggie is so excited about playing outside with Gerald! They will run! They will skip! They will jump! NOTHING will stop them!

Then it begins to rain.

It pours. Piggie is NOT a happy pig.

Gerald, an elephant, first tries shielding Piggie with his ear, but it is still raining. Piggie doesn't see how anyone could possibly play outside with all this rain.

Then they see two worms come out, exuberantly happy, splishing and splashing in the rain.

They decide to try it. They run! They skip! They jump!

Piggie decides he loves rain! He hopes it rains all day!

Then it stops.

Piggie is not a happy pig.

Fortunately, Piggie has an elephant for a friend, who has a solution.

Of course, once again, what makes this book a masterpiece is Mo Willems' amazing ability to convey emotion with his simple cartoon drawings. For example, Piggie's frustration over the rain is palpable. And I never imagined that worms could look so joyful! Elephant and Piggie turning somersaults and kicking up their heels in the rain proclaim complete exuberance. Add to that the suspense of the early-reader language and timing, with each expression and emotion getting full page treatment, and you have an utterly magnificent book.

It's funny. It's emotional. And it conveys a life-changing lesson in a way that sticks.

What more could you ask for in an easy reader?