The latest in Mo Willems Elephant & Piggie books, My New Friend Is So Fun!, is a wonderful addition to the popular series for early readers. This adventure finds Gerald talking with an old acquaintance, Snake, who reveals that his best friend, Brian Bat, is having a play date with Piggie. While at first both Gerald and Snake are simply excited, imagining how much fun their friends must be having together, the feelings of happiness quickly turn to dread as Gerald wonders, What if they are having too much fun? Snake latches onto this idea as well, and both panic as they consider a possibility they had never needed to before: what happens if a best friend finds another, better friend to be with?
The story ends in a twist like others in the series, when Gerald and Snake see Brian Bat and Piggie and realize they had fun together, but not by exchanging old best friends for new. Gerald and Snake, now slightly embarrassed at their earlier outburst, realize they had nothing to worry about. The message, though by no means a new one, is important for young children. While having a best friend may be a fun and positive experience, it does not prevent a person from forging relationships with others. Like the old adage, make new friends, but keep the old, Gerald and Snake form a new understanding of the way friends can have fun with others without abandoning their best friend in the process.
In trademark Elephant & Piggie fashion, this short book uses dialogue and art to tell a story in a nearly cinematic style, without the aid of narration. Willems’ characters jump, shout, contort, and generally break the laws of physics in their demonstrations of their emotions. Though we may not see people who express themselves in such a way in real life, young readers will be enchanted by the adorable, and oftentimes hilarious, artwork. Indeed, the pictures may be a reminder, both for adults and young children, that emotions are not something to be contained and ignored, but rather acknowledged, communicated, and dealt with in healthy ways. Gerald’s typical neurotic insecurities are soothed by Piggie’s reassurance, and his overreactions, while funny, are treated as real and meaningful fears that should be expressed rather than repressed. The dialogue is, as always, color coded for clear understanding of the speaker, and changes size according to tone. SHOUTS expand to drastic proportions, and nervous realizations shrink down to whispers. For My New Friend Is So Fun! the dialogue and artwork are as compelling as ever, communicating movement and expression in original and interesting ways.
This new picture book is a great addition to early readers’ libraries, for both old fans of Elephant & Piggie and newer audiences. Children and adults alike will benefit from the eye-catching art and easy pacing of the book, as well as the relatable story. This book will capture the attention of toddlers and young readers, and help to improve their reading skills in the process.
Review by Veronica Kittle-Kamp and Michelle She