Top 100 Picture Books #60: There Is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems
I love so many of these, and so do the kids at my school. I find them reading – and acting them out – all the time, even though they’ve been read and reread and reread. And not just the youngest students…many a grade 5 has been observed chuckling over these two. So simple, so sweet, but so funny! How does he do it? – Emily Myrh
Oh yes. This is happening. Remember that last time I conducted this poll there was a ban on board books and easy books. Now the ban has been lifted and what is the result? Elephant and Piggie make their premier appearance on the list! Will this be their sole outing or will they appear again later on down the road? Only time will tell . . .
It’s a short book so the descriptions of it tend to be pretty to the point. As Horn Book described it, “two ‘love birds’ make a nest on Gerald’s head. Cause enough for panic, but when their three eggs hatch (in record gestation time), hysteria ensues. Luckily, Piggie has a good head on her shoulders.” I just like the term “record gestation time”.
Out of curiosity I decided to look at my library’s catalog holdings just to see how this book fares. As of this writing 103 copies of this book currently checked out. That’s what so weird about working for a system as large as NYPL. Numbers like that don’t always strike me as large enough. And it’s an easy hand sell, that’s for sure. Basically all you need is a parent who wants something easy and basic for their kid and you just hand them everything Willems related on the shelf.
Elephant and Piggie books do have a danger of blurring together, but it’s easy to remember this one. After all , it was the first Willems book to win a Geisel Medal. ALA proclaimed far and wide that, “Willems’ balanced design of color-coordinated speech bubbles, expressive cartoon art and familiar vocabulary create an engaging, laugh-out-loud experience for young readers. The charming characters, whimsical tone and accessible language come together in this fresh and memorable celebration of friendship.” And later, “In a book that is both contemporary and universal, Willems captures the hearts of readers while inspiring young children to embrace the joy of independent reading,” said Committee Chair Cindy Woodruff. Later Are You Ready to Play Outside? would win another Geisel Medal in 2009, but those are the only ones to garner gold so far.
SLJ said of it (in tandem with other Elephant & Piggie books): “The conversation between the friends flows smoothly and allows beginning readers to practice expression as they read. These appealing titles will tickle the funny bones of children and are sure to become favorites.”
And said Horn Book, “The uncluttered, animated illustrations will help new readers decode tone and meaning while the spare speech-bubble dialogue enhances the pictures’ slapstick humor. The minimalism of both text and pictures focuses attention and moves the stories forward.”
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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