In Mo Willems' I Will Surprise My Friend!, Gerald the Elephant and his pal Piggie get a good idea for a game from two squirrels playing by a large rock. Gerald and Piggie hide from each other on either side of the rock, and then Gerald's imagination gets the best of him. He fears something has happened to Piggie. Recently I read aloud this beginning reader to a kindergarten class. They liked it, and afterward we talked a little bit.
When asked who his favorite character was, one boy said, "The rock," which cracked me up. "Yes, the rock does play an important part," I said. The rest were pretty evenly split between Gerald and Piggie, with one case made for the squirrels. (Squirrels are the innovative thinkers in both I Will Surprise My Friend! and I Love My New Toy!, another 2008 offering in this popular series.)
The discussion continued. A girl raised her hand, and told me solemnly, "Pigs are farm animals." We all agreed that elephants were not.
This particular group of kindergartners had never heard of Willems' picture book Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I know they'd like it.
I Will Surprise My Friend! and I Love My New Toy! are nominees in the Easy Reader category for the 2008 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils).