This should come as a shock to no one, but my kids like books.
Yes, my wife and I pushed the book thing pretty hard from very early on. Even before our first daughter was born, I was prepping for the day when we would be reading to our offspring. I was stocking up on all sorts of story books, ones with lots of pictures for when she might just sit on the floor and flip pages, to books we could read aloud while she sat in our lap.
For those keeping score, I absolutely made sure to acquire a brand-spankin’ new copy of Where the Wild Things Are, and also How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Indeed, on a trip to Washington, D.C. the summer before my oldest was born, I was in the gift shop at the National Air and Space Museum, and that seemed like a good time to pick up another Dr. Seuss title, There’s No Place Like Space!, as well as Curious George and the Rocket.
Hey, I like to be ready for any situation, you know.
Of course, there was no avoiding certain other interests of mine from bleeding into my role as a new daddy. For example:
What can I say?
Anyway, the kids have continued to enjoy books pretty much from the jump. Both enjoy reading (Addy does very well for a first grader, and Erin in Kindergarten is coming along, too), and trips to the library and the book store are a regular occurrence. Addy always exceeds her “monthly reading minutes” quota for class, and Erin is hitting her “ten books a month” within the first few days and is always wanting to impress her teacher by filling out the back of that paper with even more titles.
Me. Proud Papa.
Toward the end of the last school year, Addy came home from Kindergarten with a book she had won as part of some kind of contest. At first glance it appeared to be a typical book aimed at preschoolers and up, but the first time I read it, I decided that it’s definitely one of the funniest children’s books I’ve come across. I simply could not stop laughing…not so much at the book itself but in the way you just have to read it when you read it out loud, and the reaction from the kids listening to you read it.
What is this mysterious tome? I’m glad you asked:
Mo Willems’ We Are In A Book! is a whimsically “self-aware” little tale featuring two of the authors’ popular characters, Elephant and Piggie, who begin the book by hanging out doing nothing, only to realize that they are being watched.
They are being watched by….you. The Reader!
Now armed with this knowledge, Elephant and Piggie begin to “make” the Reader do stuff: Say words they find funny, turn pages to find more funny things and so on. Then things go full-tilt meta as the characters realize that the book will soon end. Worse? They know on exactly what page the book will end!
The book is humorous enough all on its own, but the effect is amplified when you read it out loud to an attentive audience–in my case, a 7 and 5-year old girl, and (though she tries to pretend she’s not listening) their mother. You can’t help but “act out” the dialogue in a book like this, which of course just makes the kids laugh that much harder, and since I’m a sucker for trying to make people laugh, I think we all know at this point that there’s no escaping this for me.
We Are In A Book! was a New York Times Bestseller when it was released in 2010, and was selected in 2011 as a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. It’s one of my kids’ favorite books to read and reread on their own and it was because of a recent request for me to read it aloud to them (with all the flair I could bring to bear, for those of you who needed an unnecessary rhyme, just then) that I had it on my mind today. Such are the perils of parenthood.
Anyway, if you’re the parent of a youngling to whom you read, or who is just starting out learning to read, you may want to give We Are In A Book! a look-see. Be sure to check out Mo Willems’ other offerings, because the dude definitely has it going on.