Review: I Will Surprise My Friend

I Will Surprise My Friend (An Elephant & Piggy Book)
written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, 2008
57 pages

Gerald is an elephant. He’s big, he wears glasses, and he is thoughtful. Piggie is his best friend. She’s skinny (by traditional pig standards) and is often seen dancing. Together, they watch a squirrel “surprise” his friend. The friend was startled, but then they laughed together and ran off to do it again. Gerald and Piggie got an idea! Piggie will surprise Gerald and Gerald will surprise Piggie. Right here. At this rock. Off they go … to wait. And wait. And wait. Until Gerald starts to worry about Piggie and Piggie gets hungry. As they get up from behind the rock to leave … SURPRISE!

Before I even had a chance to break the cover of I Will Surprise My Friend, my daughter (6, at least until tomorrow) snatched it and was gone! “This is awesome, Mom!” I got to listen to her read the story with all the enthusiasm and pride of a new reader. Then, after a couple of rounds, I got to read it.

I have to agree with my daughter. This was fun. My summary had far more words than the book itself, largely because so much of the story is built on dialogue and visual cues. Two creatures sitting opposite each other but never finding the other is a classic sight gag. You’ll find it in children’s stories (think Big Bird and Mr. Snuffalupagus, for one) and adult films (a la Three Stooges, and many others). But it still works.

The vocabulary repetition is great. The varied type sizes and use of all caps help kids add emotion. The lilting tone of MAYBE … just sings from the page. Because there are two parts and the text is 100% dialogue, it is a great book to partner read, with each reader taking a role with the dialogue.

I Will Surprise My Friend is an easy reader with a story toddlers, preschoolers, and emerging readers will love. If your child is inspired to act out stories, it may not be a book you read before bed … unless they have to hide in bed and have to wait for you to come back.

I Will Surprise My Friend is a Cybils nominee in the Easy Readers Category. You can find reviews for this and other books in this category at the Reading Tub website. You’ll also find links to other reviews of these same titles there. One final note. These reviews are my thoughts on the books. They do not represent an official position of the panel.

Cinder Rabbit written by Lynn E. Hazen, illustrated by Elyse Pastel
Annie and Snowball and the Teacup Club written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
I Will Surprise My Friend written and illustrated by Mo Willems

6 responses to “Review: I Will Surprise My Friend

  1. This sounds like such a great read! I have a 4th grade ESL struggling reader that I’m working with and she would absolutely love this! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Okay, this comment is totally unrelated to this post, but clicking out of Google Reader makes me actually investigate sites. Now that I know you are in Charlottesville, perhaps we can meet up one day for coffee (even though I only drink tea) and talk books!

  3. We really enjoy the Elephant and Pig stories. Mo Willems has done many wonderful things, This looks like another winner!

  4. How do you think it compares to the other Elephant and Piggie books? I ask because, this is — unanimously — the Z-Kids new favorite E&P book. They've also reviewed it, but we're waiting a few weeks to post…


  5. Hi Tricia – Tea? Sure! I’d love to talk books.

    Z-Kids – We have only one other Elephant and Piggie book. Our daughter liked it, but it didn’t resonate like this one. PS – I love Sandra Boynton’s music, too!

  6. Z-Kids, my two boys, 5 and 2.5, and my husband and I love all the Elephant and Piggie books. I’m not sure there’s even one that I would say isn’t worthwhile–they all have a humor and charm to them, and at least one laugh out loud moment for us. Boynton music, within reasonable re-play limits, is also big in our house.

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