The final Elephant & Piggie installment by Mo Willems came out last month: The Thank You Book. Willems has a way of channeling children in a way that honors them while being hilarious, and Gerald and Piggie have done that in spades. To celebrate the series’ close and continuation in the lives of children, Jordan Standridge is stopping by! He runs the children’s section of Powell’s Books in Portland. He’s a big fan of E &P and ever smart about kids’ books.
Over to Jordan!
A couple of months ago, one of my friends emailed to let me know she was going to be in Portland for a few days. I hadn’t seen her, and hadn’t talked much with her since our college graduation more than a handful of years ago in San Francisco. So the time came, and she, her boyfriend, and I got together for drinks and caught up. It was nice. I knew she had a kid, but this was the first real opportunity I had to sit down face to face and hear about her son. She told me that he wasn’t much of a reader yet, but she was partly to blame for having a busy work schedule. Knowing that I worked for Powell’s Books, and ran the Kids’ section, she asked if I had any book suggestions for her four year old.
“Yeah,” I said. “Have you ever read any Elephant & Piggie?”
They hadn’t, so I told her to stop in the store and pick one up before she flew back to the Bay Area. And she did, choosing one of my personal favorites, There is a Bird on Your Head!
The very next night, my phone starts blowing up. Text after text after text after text.
All from her.
The first was a picture of her son holding the book proudly in his arms, this beaming smile across his face. It was a stupidly adorable photo.
And the texts that followed read:
Blake’s new favorite book
I’m reading it for the third time in a row
He won’t stop laughing
He’s making me read it over and over
And if that didn’t already make my heart melt away into a warm puddle of goo, days later she texts me a screen shot of her Powell’s shopping cart with four more books (two more E & P’s, along with two other great picture book choices) and left me with the texts:
My son is addicted!!!
That book inspired him to read
This is what Elephant & Piggie is all about. They are the rock stars of picture books. And what’s even more incredible, they’re written to be early readers, too. Between the comedic-timing of the two characters, the way text is used to capture their voices and emotions, and of course Gerald’s epic freakouts, kids just go gaga over it (and the adults reading it get why; it’s actually brilliant). Coming from a guy who reads a lot of children’s books, let me tell you how infectious it is to hear a kid’s gut-busting, carefree guffawing over the new, silly, and creative situation our guy Mo puts his beloved Elephant and Piggie in.
But now, it’s coming to an end. Mo Willems is giving his series the Seinfeld treatment and they’re going to go out on top. And good for him. This May, he released The Thank You Book.
Finding out the title of it a while earlier, I had time to digest what was about to come my way in the very near future. And when that day finally came along, I grabbed a copy from off the delivery truck and brought it back to my desk to take it in, quietly and alone. The gist of the story is that Piggie wants to tell everyone ‘thank you,’ so you get to see the whole cast of supporting characters from over the course of the series pop in (from Brian Bat, to Ice Cream Penguin, to Snake, to Doctor Cat, to the Birdies, etc.), but when the Pigeon graces the pages of Elephant & Piggie, and the two series finally come together (and not just sneakily in the end pages!), I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. It was so well done. Sheesh, the book as a whole hit all the right notes for the finale. It maintained all of the traditional back and forth, paraded in all of their friends one last time, and left us thanked for being loyal readers. It was incredibly bittersweet.
And while this is the end, and I’ll miss the way a brand new Elephant & Piggie can make me feel young and giggly and just flat out happy, I’ll look forward to the next wave of kids that will get to discover the series. And to the next wave of parents that will call Mo Willems “Mo Williams.” And to their shocking discovery that Piggie isn’t a boy, but a girl. And of course, getting to talk to people about the genius of We Are in a Book!, about the inner-torment that Gerald faces in Should I Share My Ice Cream?. To how the beautiful chaos known as Elephant & Piggie is about to be unleashed on their and their kids’ lives.
That’s as lovely a consolation prize as I’ve ever seen.
This series, man… This series.
Thanks for all the laughs, Mo. Truly.
Jordan Standridge lives in Portland, OR. He’s worked at Powell’s for a handful of years and is the Kid’s Books Lead. He also facilitates a YA book club at the store and reads to local elementary school students from time to time. He is partial to coke-cherry-coke-cherry slurpees.