There Is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems

  • Title: There Is a Bird on Your Head!
  • Author: Mo Willems
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Year Published: 2007
  • ISBN: 1423106865
  • List Price: $8.99
  • Page Count: 64
  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Genre: humor
  • Award(s): Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner; Charlotte Award Winner.

Author information: Mo Willems is a giant in the youth literature field. He has created beloved children’s characters such as Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant and Piggie, and his work has been honored with numerous awards. His website includes a link to FAQs, including a biography that mentions his work on Sesame Street, his artwork that has been displayed in galleries, and, of course, his written works. He also has a blog in which he posts whatever is important to him at the moment, such as new book releases, tour dates, or anything else that is on his mind. He also has a link to merchandise on his website, and it made me desperately want some Elephant and Piggie postcards. His website also includes links to games and other fun activities for children.

Reviews: It was difficult to locate reviews on this specific title, but the Elephant and Piggie series as a whole has garnered many positive reviews. Both Kirkus and School Library Journal mention the humor and wit of the series, and Kirkus also mentions the valuable lessons about friendship that these books teach. Booklist says these books are “accessible, appealing, and full of authentic emotions about what makes friendships tick”. School Library Journal named There Is a Bird on Your Head! as #60 on a list of top 100 picture books.

Readers annotation: Uh oh! Gerald has a bird on his head!

Summary: A bird lands on Gerald’s head. He doesn’t like it. Then a second bird lands. Then they build a nest. The birds hatch their eggs on Gerald’s head and the entire family continues to live there, much to Gerald’s chagrin and Piggie’s delight. Finally, Piggie suggests that if Gerald doesn’t want the birds on his head, he should just ask them to leave. He does, and they migrate to Piggie’s head.

Evaluation: This book is a delight. Gerald and Piggie are simply rendered characters, but their simplicity does not inhibit a wide range of emotions and expressions that convey their feelings to the reader. The plot is well executed, builds the silliness of the situation to a superb high note, and then resolves in a funny and satisfying way. The dynamic between Piggie and Gerald is classic and wonderful, with Piggie’s over-the-top enthusiasm balancing out Gerald’s frantic and worrywart nature. The dialogue between the two is rich with comedy, and adults may find themselves laughing just as much or more as the children they are reading this book with (I definitely laughed out loud a few times). This book holds up to multiple readings, and the reader will enjoy looking through it again and again.

Rating and appeal factors:

  • Quality: 5/5  This book is hilarious for readers of all ages. The artwork is simple and adorable, and the plot is clever and well-executed.
  • Popularity: 5/5 This is a perfect title for new readers. Children will delight in the increasing ridiculousness of Gerald’s situation, and they’ll enjoy the twist at the end. This book will keep kids laughing and make them want to read more books about this duo.
  • Appeal factors: Elephant and Piggie, humor, friendship, early reader, simple artwork.

Read-alikes: 

  1. Fans of Gerald and Piggie’s friendship may also enjoy reading Ten Things I Love About You by Daniel Kirk. His story also features two animal best friends in a silly situation.
  2. Of course, readers who enjoyed this book will also love Willems’ other Elephant and Piggie titles. There are currently 21 books in the series, with the most recent being My New Friend is So Fun!

Book talk ideas: Elephant and Piggie really need no introduction, but instead of talking specifically about this book, start by talking about the greater concept of the Elephant and Piggie books. Gerald and Piggie are two friends who are very different–Gerald is a worrywart and Piggie is a carefree optimist, but they are both loyal friends who care about each other and enjoy having fun together. In There Is a Bird on Your Head, we get to see how Gerald deals with the fact that a bird lands on his head, and we also get Piggie’s reactions to the situation. Tell readers it’s a great book to share with parents or friends, and that it is sure to have them laughing at Gerald and Piggie’s antics.

Discussion questions/ideas:

  1. How would you react if a bird landed on your head?
  2. Do you think you are more like Gerald or more like Piggie? Why?
  3. What did you think of the end of the story?

Reason for reading: I’m ashamed to say that I’d never read an Elephant and Piggie book before this semester. I’m a huge fan of Mo Willems–the Pigeon books and Edwina are some of the most delightful children’s titles I’ve encountered–but a lot of his other work was not familiar to me. After the class presentation on Mo Willems I went on a reading binge and checked out most of his titles. There Is a Bird on Your Head! was my introduction to Elephant and Piggie world, and after I read it I was hooked. I’ve since read all of the titles in the series, and I absolutely adore them.

Additional relevant information: Gerald was named after Mo Willems’ favorite singer. Elephant Gerald. Ella FitzGerald. Get it? It talks about that and his decision not to give Piggie a name (he says she’s too essentially Piggie to be called anything else) in this interview with Entertainment Weekly.

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