- Ayren Jackson-Cannady
The Children’s Book Every Adult Should Read Today
"Always think of your audience not for your audience." -Mo Willems
We were going on day 19 of reading Anna Loves Elsa, a gripping tale about why Frozen’s Anna and Elsa characters aren't just sisters--they're best friends (can you sense my sarcasm). The board book comes with pull-tabs, flaps, and pop-ups...and we were about to read it for the 19th night in a row.
As I sat at the edge of my daughter’s bed waiting for the heavy board book to be plopped onto my lap, my eyelids grew heavy, thinking of the impending boredom that was about to fill the next 8 minutes of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love and cherish the time spent reading to my kids. But. 19. Days. Straight. Ya’ll.
When I felt a much lighter book on my legs, my eyes shot open. “Can you read this one, mama?” We’d never read Happy Pig Day, by Mo Willems (one of my all-time favorite children’s book writers), so YES. A huge, relief-filled YES. Elsa and Anna, it’s been real.
The Gerald and Piggie series follows the adventures of two unlikely friends, an elephant and a pig (who don’t have an ice palace..whew!). Spoiler alert: In Happy Pig Day, Piggie is celebrating her favorite day of the year, Pig Day. On this day there are pig songs, pig dances, pig food, pig games, and a slew of pig friends wishing one another "oinky, oink oink," which is "pig for ‘Happy Pig Day!’" Piggie is in her element. Gerald is not, and begins to slink away as feelings of exclusion creep into his head: "I do not have a snout. I do not have hooves! I am not pink! I want to say, Happy Pig Day' in Pig! But I am not a pig."
Turns out, "Happy Pig Day is for . . . Anyone," reassures Piggie as a squirrel, cat and bear whip off their pig-costume heads, and shout "Who!" "Loves!" "Pigs!" The only natural-born pig celebrating Pig Day is, well, Piggie. All of the other animals were celebrating their friend’s heritage, a collective of porcine pride.
In our real world, the year is filled with cultural celebrations: February is Black History Month, March is Irish-American Heritage Month, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month, September is Hispanic Heritage Month, October is Italian American Heritage Month, November is American Indian Heritage Month. Just because you come from a different heritage doesn’t mean that you can’t show genuine interest or throw yourself into the festivity and revelry of another culture's celebration, especially when you're celebrating with good friends.