I've long been a fan of Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie series of easy readers (there are at least 18 books in the series). I've given them many times as gifts, and seen them dominate the Easy Reader category of the Cybils for years. But somehow I've never reviewed one. I am taking the opportunity today to discuss Should I Share My Ice Cream?, which was published in 2011.
In Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Elephant struggles with the challenge of sharing. He first exhibits a child's joy when he stumbled upon an ice cream cart, and buys a lovely green ice cream cone. But then it occurs to him that his best friend, Piggie, might want to share the cone. Greed ("Should I share my awesome, yummy, sweet, super, great, tasty, nice cool ice cream?) wrestles with responsibility ("What if she is sad somewhere?"), interrupted by several levels of rationalization ("She does not know I have ice cream."). Turns out that Elephant spends so much time deciding that ... the ice cream melts. A tragedy. But not to worry. Friendship will surely save the day.
A big part of the fun of this book is Elephant's expressive face. His evil smirk at "She does not know." His arched eyebrows at "Hey ... Piggie is not here." His beads of sweat at "It will not be easy." Kids everywhere will be completely able to relate to the struggle to do the right thing. This is a book about sharing done right. The humor, and Elephant's realistic struggle, put Should I Share My Ice Cream? in a separate universe from many didactic books about friendship and sharing that I've seen. The ending still leave you with a warm feeling, but it's not a cloying sort of warmth.
The beauty of the Elephant & Piggie books in general, and this one in particular, is that they work as easy readers, while offering more. The sentences are short. There's enough repetition to help new readers, but not so much as to become dull. But they are also stories, about topics relevant to the interests of five year olds. Like eating ice cream, getting new toys, and being invited to parties. They feature realistic characters, with flaws and strengths. And Willems' illustrations are spare but expressive, perfect for the needs of the genre.
Whenever anyone asks me about easy readers, this is the first series that comes to mind. Oh, there are others, of course, and in a couple of years, as Baby Bookworm reaches that stage, I expect to become much more of an expert. But as a starting point, you can't go wrong with Elephant & Piggie. Should I Share My Ice Cream? is an excellent example of why this series works so well. It is well worth picking up.
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: June 14, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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