Let’s Go for a Drive by Mo Willems

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Willems, Mo. Let’s Go for a Drive.  Hyperion Books for Children, 2012.  $8.99, 57 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.mowillems.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: Piggie and Elephant make plans to go for a drive.

Summary:

Piggie and Gerald the elephant decide to go for a drive.  Gerald emphasizes the need for a plan.  Included in his plan are all of the things that the two friends will  need for a drive.  This includes a map, umbrella, sunglasses, and bags to keep all of the stuff they need for their drive.  Once they are packed, Gerald realizes that they still need one more thing for their drive…a car!  Since neither has a car, and before Gerald can panic too much more, Piggie suggests they play pirates instead.  And play pirates they do.

Evaluation:

Characteristic of Mo Willems’ work, Let’s Go for a Drive features two familiar friends, Gerald the elephant and Piggie, a problem to solve, and lots of silliness.   The catchy rhythm and silly repetition of words and sounds makes this a good book for early readers. The liberal use of exclamation points amps up the energy of this book.  Willems’ signature illustrations add to the silliness of Gerald and Piggie.  Their emotions are clearly expressed in their facial expressions and body language.  Gerald’s close to hysterics is apparent in the illustrations toward the end.  Their antics are entertaining, as is their final solution to the problem of no car, making this quite an enjoyable read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: fiction, easy reader

Appeal Factors: humor, illustrations, friends, animals, use of imagination

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • New Socks by Bob Shea
  • Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas
  • My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Booktalking Ideas:

  • The need for a plan
  • All of the things they need to drive

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why do they need so many things for their drive?
  • What would you need for a drive?
  • How have they incorporated the items they needed for a drive into playing pirates?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because I wanted to read one of Mo Willems’ books.  My son and I had listened to a different Elephant and Piggie story at a library story time, and I liked the two friends’ energy.

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

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de Paola, TomieStrega Nona.  Aladdin, 1979.  $7.99, 32 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.tomie.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:  What happens when Big Anthony is told not to touch Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot?  Of course, he touches it.

Summary:

Strega Nona is the friendly town “Grandma Witch” who is getting on in her years.  She hires on Big Anthony to help her with her daily chores.  One day Big Anthony sees Strega Nona making pasta in a magic pasta pot.  When he tells the other villages about this magical cooking instrument, they laugh at him.  When Strega Nona goes out of town, Big Anthony decides to redeem himself by showing off the magic pot.  Unfortunately, Big Anthony did not hear the complete spell, and the town is soon overrun with errant pasta that will not stop flowing from the magic pasta pot.  Luckily for Big Anthony, Strega Nona returns in time to save him and the town from the pasta.  And to set things right, Big Anthony must eat all the pasta so Strega Nona can sleep in her bed and the townspeople be appeased for his mistakes.

Evaluation:

Tomie de Paola takes an Italian folktale and transforms it into something magical in Strega Nona.  Accompanied by beautiful watercolor and ink drawings that give the story even more of a folksy feeling, Strega Nona is a classic story written in simple language.  Although magic is involved, the character must learn the age old lesson that curiosity killed the cat, or in this case, covered the town in pasta!  The plot is obviously fanciful with magic pasta pots and a “grandmother witch.”  Big Anthony is the archetypal brawns but no brains.  Strega Nona’s character is wise and just, meting out a punishment fitting the crime.  De Paola’s writing style weaves humor, magic, and folklore into a truly enjoyable read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: fantasy, folklore

Appeal Factors: illustrations, magic

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong
  • Big Anthony: His Story by Tomie de Paola
  • Strega Nona Does It Again! by Tomie de Paola

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Caldecott Honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Big Anthony’s characterization
  • Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot
  • The deluge of noodles

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does Strega Nona choose Anthony to be her helper?
  • Will Strega Nona continue to let Anthony help her?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of the magical elements in the story.  Tomie de Paola’s illustrations are also so lovely.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

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Portis, Antoinette. Not a Box.  Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2006.  $14.99, 32 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.antoinetteportis.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: For a bunny with an imagination, a box is so much more than a box.

Summary:

A bunny sitting in a box is plagued with questions from a pesky narrator.  First the narrator wants to know why it is sitting in a box.  Then the narrator wants to know why it is standing on the top of the box.  The narrator doesn’t understand why the bunny is squirting the box with a hose.  Or why he wears the box.  Finally, the bunny explains that it is not a box, but a Not-a-Box.

Evaluation:

Not a Box is a very simple picture book that beginner readers can enjoy.  The stark text against a single colored background and illustrated with simple drawings makes readers use their own imaginations.  The box has the potential to be many other things, a tall building, hot air balloon, race car, and much, much more.  Although simple in text and illustration, the message about the power of imagination is clear.  The anonymous narrator asking questions is disdainfully reproached by the imaginative bunny with a look of disbelief when he/she keeps asking about a box.  This delightful read has a powerful message wrapped in simple trappings.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: fiction

Appeal Factors: illustrations, use of imagination

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Brave Spaceboy by Dana Kessimakis Smith
  • Big Brown Box by Marisabina Russo

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel Award honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Series of box as not a box picture

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does the narrator keep asking the bunny about the box?
  • What other things can you imagine the box could be?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of its simplicity.  From the drawings to the text, everything was very simple.  I liked how Portis was still able to tell an entertaining story with so little.