About the Holiday
There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, promoted the holiday after Nellie’s death in 1968. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.
Who is the Mystery Writer? (Unlimited Squirrels)
By Mo Willems
Mo Willems passel of fifteen squirrels—and one winged squirrel-wanna-be—is back in this beginning-reader series that offers lots of laughs along with enthusiastic encouragement for new readers. The table of contents (introduced by a punny joke) reveals that there are plenty of stories and jokes to come before the Tale End, where kids get to celebrate their detective skills.
First up is The BIG Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? Zoom Squirrel, Zap Squirrel, Zip Squirrel, Flink Squirrel, and Wink Squirrel are walking along when they come to a STOP sign. Zoom Squirrel pulls up quick and stops the crew—not because of the sign, exactly, but because he can’t read it. Zap, Zip, and Flink are in a bit of a tizzy about how to discover what the sign says, while Wink Squirrel excuses himself and walks off the page.
In the wink of an eye, a masked squirrel appears to suggest the squirrels read the sign. The other squirrels are mesmerized by their hero, and as he passes out his card, all Zoom Squirrel can say is “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.” After the squirrels reveal their predicament, the Mystery Reader springs into action. He begins by sounding out the letters, but Zoom Squirrel shouts “STOP!” He doesn’t see how this is helping.
After a bit of explanation, Zoom is ready to try sounding out the letters for himself—and… he’s got it! While congratulations are being passed around, the Mystery Reader excuses himself and walks off the page. When Wink Squirrel returns, his friends tell him what he’s missed. Thus, begins the search for who the Mystery Reader really is. Zoom has turned into quite a reader, but his interpretation of the Mystery Reader’s card leads to his mistaken impression that he is the Mystery Reader. He’s just beginning his thank-you speech, when the real Mystery Reader is back (with a wink).
Zoom feels a bit deflated until the Mystery Reader gives him his own “New Mystery Reader” mask and underpants. Zap, Zip, and Flink think it’s too bad that Zoom missed meeting this new mystery reader. The Mystery Reader ends the story with a wry “Well… We learned something today.” To which Zoom responds, “Squirrels do not know much about costumes! Up next is an “Acorn-y Joke” that is guaranteed to be “100% corny!”—much to the delight of readers!
In the following segment, Wonder Squirrel is doing some deep thinking about the origins of writing. Now, everyone wants to know. This is a job for… The Book of Wonders! Inside The Book of Wonders! readers learn about cuneiform, hieroglyphs (and how they influenced our alphabet), the Inca’s use of knotted ropes, and the invention of paper. Kids also learn that there are mysteries about writing still to be solved.
Another Acorn-y Joke will have kids giggling, and then it’s time for readers to learn how Mo Squirrel makes a book—from idea to agent and editor, to writing, rewriting and redrawing, to re-rewriting and re-redrawing, and finally to printing. The Tale End poses a conundrum of sorts. Zap, Zip, and Flink are shocked to discover that they never learned who the Mystery Readers are. Readers at home, will feel empowered to be in on the joke as Zoom Squirrel and Wink Squirrel wink at each other knowingly.
A page preceding the stories introduces emote-acorns—small acorn faces that display nine emotions, such as surprised, sad, confused, and proud. These small graphics are found throughout the stories in the bottom corner whenever “the squirrels have big feelings” allowing children to practice not only their print-reading skills but their skills in reading facial expressions as well.
Mo Willems’ zany squirrels will keep kids laughing and shouting out the answers to their questions in this rollicking beginning reader. The text of each story is presented solely in dialog bubbles that are clearly attributed to the speaker. The short phrasing and repeated words will give new readers confidence in their abilities and encourage them to try longer sentences. The non-fiction pages include photographs of the various types of writing discussed, and the facts presented are detailed and written so the target age can easily understand. Readers who would like to learn more are pointed toward the Unlimited Squirrels website.
Willems’ distinctive illustration style is always a delight, and his emotive squirrels are no exception. The graphic novel format gives readers clear, bold and vivid imagery to mirror the text and make reading a visual treat of putting words and actions together. Each squirrel has different colors and markings. Getting to know and recognize the five squirrels in The Big Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? before beginning to read will help kids follow the action and be one step ahead of the mystery for maximum enjoyment and inclusion in the jokes.
A funny and fun addition to the Unlimited Squirrels series, Who is the Mystery Reader? will get kids excited about becoming readers and would be an often-chosen book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Hyperion Books for Children, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368046862
To learn more about Mo Willems and his books, visit his website.
Have fun with more Unlimited Squirrels on their website.
National Author’s Day Activity
Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate
If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!
You can find Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels) at these booksellers
Picture Book Review