All the Things

A blog by Holly Papa.

I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems

by | Jun 30, 2009 | Blog | 6 comments


It’s finally here, our Doublescoop for June (yeah we know how close it is to July). We are big fans of Mo Willems and our children right along with us, as you will see. Willems has won several awards for his work including a Caldecott Honor and the Theodor Seuss Geisel medal in 2008 and 2009 for the Elephant and Piggie early readers. Cari was first introduced to the brilliant, zany, fun-loving world of Mo Willems by Britt from Confessions of a Book Habitue, a fellow book blogger and friend of Cari. Holly was introduced to his world through a parenting magazine and the pidgeon books.

Mo Willem’s Website and Blog

Cari: So did you have as much fun reading I Will Surprise My Friend as we did?

Holly: I had a great time reading this book, my youngest son loves this book!

(Child #3 in the background): I love dis book!

Holly: I think Gerald is my favorite character because he is so much like me. I tend to worry a lot. Which character did you identify with more?

Cari: I think as an adult definitely Gerald, but as a child I was more like Piggie.

Cari: My five year old really liked the book – She laughed, laughed and then laughed some more, she even read this book to Elliot – the dog as part of our library’s R.E.A.D. program, where kids read to dogs.

Holly: All of my kids liked the book, but particularly my toddler and 6 year old – They all wanted  a turn with it by themselves (even the 8 year old). I read it to my toddler and his cousin (2). We then went to the park and they played hide ‘n seek on the playground.  It was really cute. Basically they acted out what they saw in the book, two friends trying to surprise each other by hiding behind a rock only they used the play structure’s tunnels and hideouts.

Cari: I really like the colors Mo Willems uses. When Piggie, who is pink, talks the text bubble is pink and when Gerald, who is gray, talks the text bubble is gray. I just love that kind of scaffolding in a text. It helps kids to understand who is talking. It makes it easy to follow. As far as an easy reader – it’s wonderful especially how Willems uses the words and pictures together. Sometimes the words are really big to emphasize emotion and other times they are small. I love it! Yet the book is  simple enough that a beginner reader can read and it is entertaining even for the adults (a huge bonus) at the same time. Children will want to read this one and the whole series. My daughter doesn’t have to be convinced to read Mo Willems at all. She just loves his books.

Holly: I liked how the book shows how children imitate what they see. Piggie and Gerald saw the squirrels playing surprise games, so Piggie and Gerald tried it out, and then my son and his cousin did it too. By the way, what does scaffolding mean?

Cari: Oh yeah, that’s the teacher part in me, scaffolding is when you do something to help children accomplish something they might not be able to do on their own. Such as helping them identify who is speaking in the book, by using the colors for the text boxes that match with the color of the character. I am pretty sure he didn’t write the book and then say oh let me scaffold this for young readers, I think he is a natural at creating books for children that motivate and help them read.

Trip down memory Lane

In Western Idaho, the sun doesn’t set in the summer until about 10pm at night. Cari and Holly shared a bedroom and a queen sized bed. When bedtime is at 8pm and the sun doesn’t set for two more hours, there’s a lot of time to burn, before it’s dark enough to sleep. Besides reading, we would invent games to play to entertain ourselves. One of our frequent favorites was the pillowcase game. And just in case you decide you want to play our fun game we will give instructions at the end so you too can experience the fun-filled game of our childhood.

One hot stuffy summer night, a new game is born in Cari and Holly’s bedroom:

Cari: I have an idea

Holly: What is it?

Cari: Let’s play a game

Holly: What kind of game?

Cari: This is going to be really fun. Stand up here in the middle of the bed. Put this pillow case on. Can you see anything?

Holly: Yes. It’s totally see through. (Oh, come on, must I really be so honest?)

Cari: Turn it around so the pillow’s in front.

Holly: Okay. I can’t see anything. It’s hot in here. I can barely breathe.

Cari: Okay, now count to ten while I spin you in circles.

Holly: 1, 2, 3 . . .

Cari: 10! Okay, we’re ready.

Holly: I can’t stand up! I’m too dizzy!


Cari: Are you ready yet?

Holly: I’m ready.

Cari: Now, start walking around the bed slowly. If you get too close to the edge I will tell you.

Holly: (walking right into the wall) Uh Oh! (begins to giggle)

Cari: (giggling) Cold, you are very cold. (Holly changes directions)

Cari: Getting warmer, getting warmer, almost hot . . .(laughing)

Holly: I don’t know where I am, I must be close to the edge. I will go this way instead. (laughing, changes directions again)

Cari: Warm, you’re warm. Cold you’re getting colder. You’re really cold!

Holly: Puts arms in front to block the wall. Relief floods her as she feels nothing.

Cari: Go left!

Holly: Okay. AAAHHHH! (Thud as she hits the floor.) HAHAHAHAHA! I thought I was in the middle of the bed! Hahahahahah

Cari: That was so funny! Ha ha hahahahaha! Didn’t you know one of the rules is you can lie? Hahahahah! Lets do it again!

Holly: Okay, but I have to go the bathroom.

Cari: Did you pee your pants?

Holly: Maybe.

Cari: You peed your pants, I can’t believe you peed your pants. Hurry and change before Mom hears you!

Holly: Okay, I’ll hurry but next time I get to give the directions!

Instructions for the Pillowcase game

Players required:


Items required:

One big bed

One pillowcase with a pillow inside.

Warning: This game teaches lying skills to children and may be hazardous to your health.

Objective: Get the other person to fall off the bed.

Player 1 is ‘it’. Player 2 is the victim. First, player 2  must assume position standing in the middle of the bed with the pillowcase over their head, the pillow in front so that there is no chance of peeking. Player 1 helps to turn player 2  in a circle ten times until Person 2 is so dizzy they can hardly stand up. Let the game begin! Player 1 now gives directions verbally to Player 2 as Player 2 walks cautiously around the bed. “Hot means close to the edge, Cold means by the wall or in the middle, Warm means almost to the edge” The goal for player 2 is to stay safely on the bed.  The goal for player 1 is to get Player 2 to fall off the bed. The best way to do this is to get Player 2 so mixed up they can’t tell where they are going. Player 1 can lie and Player 2 will believe them and fall off the edge of the bed without realizing they’ve been tricked until they feel nothing but air under their feet.

This game occupied many hot summer nights and often ended with Holly running off to the bathroom to change clothes because she laughed so hard she couldn’t help what happened next. (She doesn’t have that problem anymore, thank goodness)


  1. Britt

    If you liked that one you should really read I Love My New Toy. Boo has most of it memorized. It cracks her up.

    I really just love Mo Willems’ stuff!! And I totally agree about the color of the text bubbles. Very helpful for little readers, I think.

  2. AZ

    You guys should play Pillowcase again as adults for old times sake… I can imagine the kids gathered around, watching the moms have at it…

  3. hollybookscoops

    Britt- Thanks! We’ll have to check out your recommendation, it sounds like another Willems hit!

    AZ- Yeah, I’ve thought about it. There’s just a few problems: 1-We’re a lot further from the ground than we used to be. 2- I don’t want to break any bones. 3. My bed time isn’t 8 o’clock anymore.

    Other than that, it sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe if we could put the mattress on the floor, I’d be willing to try. No more 2 foot drop-offs blindfolded for me! I’ve thought about telling my kids how to play, but I think they might never go to sleep at night if I do.

  4. Natasha @ Maw Books

    I know Mo Willems is insanely popular but I haven’t gotten my boys into his books yet. But I must say that your pillowcase game made me laugh!

  5. caribookscoops

    Britt – My daughter’s first Willems easy reader was I Love My New Toy. She adored it and actually on my R.E.A.D. post about reading to dogs that is the book she read to him.

    AZ – Very funny, I concur with my sister. Although it would be funny, I’m pretty sure my body would not react the same way to a tumble off the bed and I would break some bone. Kids are so resilant, adults not so much. I might be willing to try if I was wearing some protective gear, just maybe I might consider it.

    And there is no way I am teaching my kids that game, although if they come up with on there own so be it.

  6. Sharon

    Ha! Funny pillow game. My brother and I had “bed” fights that ended with the mattresses off the frames. Our parents just loved us for that!



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