Monday, July 25, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #29.)

You don't have to pretend this time.  It's actually Monday and this is Monday's post...amazing, isn't it?! :)

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator
Author and Illustrator: Mo Willems
Pages: 69
Age Range: 4+
Published: 2011
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/Picture Book
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: G

I haven’t gushed about my love for Mo lately so let me take a minute to do so now. Is it possible for the man to write a bad book?  I think not!
Amanda and her alligator entertain us for no less than 6 ½ surprising stories in Willems’ latest book. It could almost qualify as a beginning reader with chapters and a table of contents and relatively simple text but it’s still got the shape and feel of a picture book.  So, you decide!
We are first introduced to Amanda’s alligator as he is impatiently pacing and waiting for her to return from the library.  He hates it when she’s gone. But she soon returns and even has a surprise for him, though it’s not the kind of surprise the reader would guess.  Chapter two has the alligator trying to surprise Amanda this time, but she’s onto him. In chapter two and a half he decides to give the surprise to himself instead. Chapter three finds him thinking of a better way to surprise her thanks to his Good Old Thinking Cap. In chapter four alligator is surprised to find out he was only worth seven cents at the garage sale where Amanda found him but she cheers him up and shows him how much she thinks he’s worth and in chapter five alligator finds a surprising and humorous way to beat boredom.
But everything culminates in chapter six when Amanda brings home a new stuffed animal from the zoo. Again we see the alligator pacing and waiting for Amanda to return but when she does she has sparkling new panda (worth way more than seven cents) with her. Amanda’s off again to dinner with her grandfather leaving the two animals to get to know each other. Panda’s perky and eager to explore his new surroundings while alligator is brusque and stand-offish.  But soon panda confesses he’s just no good at waiting, he’d much rather be singing silly songs or making discoveries or dressing up. And the two spend the rest of the evening doing just that.
The simplicity with which one can re-tell the events doesn’t begin to do justice to the complexities of the stories themselves. There are clever quotes and subtle (and not-so-subtle) puns and jokes throughout the text. And how does one even begin to describe the mastery that is a Mo Willems illustration? They are also deceptively simple; pencil-like sketches and pastel watercolors that are able to convey more emotion, movement, and humor than other far more detailed illustrations. He truly has a gift.
I didn’t love this one as much as I love nearly all of his Elephant and Piggie books but it still made me laugh out loud. (I adore the illustration of alligator chewing on Amanda’s head…priceless!) Sure to tickle the funny bone of just about every child on the planet, we have another winner from the man who can apparently do no wrong!  (Don’t forget to look for half-hidden cameos from the Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny as well.)


  1. I have been wanting to tell you about a book that I have been reading with my boys lately. It's titled "Summer" and it was written by Alice Low. Our copy is really old and taped in lots of places. I got it from my grandmother's house when she died, way back before I even thought about getting married or having kids, but it wasn't until this summer that I have really started to appreciate just how fantastic this book is. Every time I read it to my boys I feel the essence of summer streaming off of it's pages. I thought that you would like to check it out, it seems like your kind of book!

  2. I just added it to my library hold list...thanks for the suggestion! (I'll let you know what I think!)