An exploration of the nature of surprises between good friends.
The point of view belongs firmly with Amanda's stuffed alligator, whose patience wears thin whenever Amanda is away and he is waiting for her return, and whose generosity is taxed when Amanda brings home a new stuffed panda from a zoo visit. Resourceful Amanda plows through a stack of library books with enticing titles (Whale Songs for Beginners;Â You Can Make It Yourself: Jet Packs!) as her alligator thinks of ways to engage her attention. When Alligator begins chewing on Amada's head, she tells him "Books beat boredom," but he still thinks her head tastes better than a book. Alligator's worry over his price tag (he came from the sale bin) and the introduction of the new "friend" add emotional complexity to the simple friendship tale.Â The pacing, word volume and wide trim size are all inviting and encouraging, bringing readers close to the cozy friendship between Amanda and her impatient stuffed friend. The figures are set against plenty of white space, giving them an appealing kinetic energy and encouraging the eye to move, or sometimes gallop, across the page.
Silly, warm and inviting, the six-and-1/2 short episodic chapters are just right for reading aloud as well as for beginning readers who are steady on their reading feet.Â (Picture book. 3-7)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Six and a half short stories make up this expertly paced page-turner about a girl and her toy alligator, laced with the kid-centric humor on which Willems has built his career. Willems presents everyday, indoor interactions between Amanda and her teal-blue, nontoothy pal, drawn in grainy black crayon with watercolor wash. Alligator waits impatiently for Amanda to return from the library, then asks, "Do you have a surprise for me?" Amanda indulges him by shouting, "Boo!" Then, in a bit of turnabout, while Amanda reads her library books Alligator observes, "Something tickles," followed by "I do!" Another ticklish subject arises when Alligator discovers his price tag and that he came from "the sale bucket" ("Nobody wanted to buy you," Amanda admits, adding, "because they knew you were meant to be my best friend"). The emphasis rests on quiet, ordinary events and the characters' comfortable alliance, which is temporarily threatened by a rival panda toy who bears a resemblance to Knuffle Bunny. As in his Elephant and Piggie books, Willems ends on a generous note, showing how Alligator and Panda overcome their superficial differences and giggle together. Ages 4-8. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
PreS-Gr 2--These "6½ Surprising Stories About 2 Surprising Friends" expand on the bond between child and toy that Willems captured so well in "Knuffle Bunny." In the first tale, the turquoise stuffed alligator, endearingly pictured clutching his tail, anxiously awaits young Amanda's return from the library. When he asks her for a surprise, she delivers expertly, yelling, "BOO!" Though his first attempt to return the favor is an "un-surprising surprise," Alligator follows Amanda's suggestion to put on his Old Thinking Cap--a kind of Viking helmet with lightbulbs attached--and succeeds. Alligator later overcomes his disappointment at discovering that he was taken from the discount bin when Amanda tells him that no one else bought him because he was meant to be her best friend. Finally, he discovers a new pal in a potential rival toy. The humor in these stories suits both children and adults, as when Amanda notices Alligator chewing on her head while she is reading You Can Make It Yourself: Jet Packs! White pages with partially outlined background elements set the scene, while the characters take center stage. In the author's trademark charcoal and watercolor illustrations, characters once again strike just the right pose to convey a maximum of information with a minimum of artistic sweat. This book is best suited to older preschoolers or beginning readers ready for a transitional-length story that is in between tidy picture-book tales and more complex chapter stories. Amusing and heartwarming, it will leave Willems's fans totally satisfied.--Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI[Page 92]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.