Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Playing in the rain!  Gerald's attempts to cheer Piggie up.
Cons: Piggie's whining seems out of character
The Bottom Line
Piggie not herself
Brings this book down a notch.  But
Still recommended.

Not One of the Better Elephant and Piggie Books

Since discovering Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie picture books, I've read as many as I could find at libraries and bookstores.  I think I've read them all, and several times each.  They are a delightful series with laughs and creativity front and center.  Sometimes, it takes a couple reads before I truly appreciate one of the books.  Even with that, Are You Ready to Play Outside? hasn't quite lived up to the rest of the series.

The series focuses on best friends Piggie and Gerald.  Piggie is upbeat and fun loving, while her best friend Gerald worries and is a bit more of a realist.  Together, the two have many adventures filled with laughs that teach a thing or two along the way.

What amazes me about these books is that Mo Willems is able to do all that with a very limited amount of words and pictures.  The illustrations mainly focus on the two characters (and any supporting cast who might turn up).  There might be a hint of background, but nothing too extensive.  Likewise, the words consist solely of dialog, and consists of one or two sentences per page.  Yet each book contains a complete story usually with a twist at the end that tops any laughs that came early in the book.

Gerald and Piggie are planning to play outside all day.  And they are going to have a blast doing it.  That is until it starts to rain.  Now how can they have fun playing outside?

So why doesn't this book quite work for me?  It starts with the personality swap.  Normally upbeat, find a way to make it work Piggie (she figured out a way to fly in another book), is crushed when it starts to rain.  Gerald does what he can to cheer her up, like offering an elephant ear as an umbrella.  To really be in keeping with the characters, I would think that Piggie should be trying to cheer up Gerald.

I do like the fact that they figure out that playing in the rain can be fun.  Personally, even before I started running regularly, I loved to run in the rain.  It's something I learned to appreciate at an early age, so the fact that this book shows it can be fun makes me like it.

Then it stops raining, and Piggie starts whining again, which still seems out of character to me.  But again it is necessary for the final gag, in which Gerald starts making it rain by spraying water from his trunk.

Yes, the book still makes me smile.  And the lengths Gerald goes through to make Piggie happy is endearing.  But overall, Piggie's whining takes this one down a notch for me.

But a lesser Elephant and Piggie book is still fun.  While not top of the heap, I do still enjoy Are You Ready to Play Outside?

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