Monday, October 26, 2009

Big Frog Can't Fit In by Mo Willems

There aren’t too many books I’ll purchase sight unseen. I like to get my hands on them, flip through them, read some random pages, you know – give books a good once over, just to be sure. But if a book has Mo Willems’ name on the cover, all bets are off. He’s earned it. Or maybe the pigeon has. Possibly Elephant and Piggie.

And that’s how Big Frog Can’t Fit In arrived on my doorstep yesterday. There was no disappointment.

As a story, there’s not too much here. Big Frog is big. Too big for her book. She’s not short enough or bendable enough and, frankly, “Big Frog can’t stand it!” But Big Frog has friends, and friends are good at helping solve problems. When a big number of little friends come to Big Frog’s aid, a solution is quickly discovered.

The magic of the book is the pop-ups, or more accurately, pop-outs as the book proclaims. The book even gives a large print shout out to Bruce Foster for his paper engineering, referring to him in one spot as Big Bad Bruce Foster. Big Frog sticks her tongue out to proclaim her feelings about not fitting in. She dreams of shrinking or bending around into a pretzel-ish knot and folds her arms in disgust. Big Frog’s friends even appear out of nowhere to help.

Attentive readers will appreciate all the little non-Frog related jokes. There’s a caution on the package insert: “WARNING: PACKAGE CONTAINS ONE HIDDEN PIGEON.” (Sure enough, there’s that pigeon stealing a smidgen of Big Frog’s glory.) A small orange box is part of the packaging to make sure Big Frog’s foot doesn’t get crushed. The back of the box reads, “Hyperion books for Children has done all it can to ensure that BIG FROG CAN’T FIT IN is more fun that this small orange box. But, kids … what can YOU do?”

My only concern is that it’s a pop-up – eh-hem, pop-out book. As a kid I had a Star Wars pop-up book. I was extremely frustrated when Luke couldn’t rescue Princess Leia anymore and when Obi-Wan Kenobi battled Darth Vader but he wouldn’t die because the flip wouldn’t flop. (Maybe I was a bit rough on my pop-up books, but hey, I was a kid!) The pop-outs in Big Frog Can’t Fit In are extremely intricate. That’s what makes the book so cool. Hopefully Big Frog’s friends are always able to come to his rescue, that the pop-outs don’t prevent their friendly assistance.

Despite my childhood history with pop-up books, Big Frog Can’t Fit In is getting my highest recommendation. Hopefully Big Frog can fit on bookshelves. A lot of them.

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