If you hear the name Mo Willems, do you smile, and say, “Oh, my kids and my grand-kids love his books.”? If you don’t know anything about this prolific children’s book author and illustrator, then maybe you should, because he is a direct “descendant” of Theodor Suess Geisel–and you know that name, right? (Lots of pretending going on in his children’s books.) So, what’s this pretending thing in the review title all about?
We will first set a “pretend” mode, meaning that we–you, the reader, and I, the reviewer–will be playing a game together, an imagination game about the book, HAROLD & HOG PRETEND FOR REAL! You will imagine that you are asking the questions, when I am actually asking them for you. Then, I will respond with a “pretend-it’s-true” answer. So, let’s begin.
1.Reviewer Me: There’s an elephant and a pig that pretend to be Harold the Elephant, and Hog.
Reader You: Why do they want to do this?
2.Reviewer Me: They simply want to be like someone else of their own kind: Elephant wants to be like Harold, an elephant; and Piggie wants to be like Hog. They adorn visual aids–glasses to be like Harold and a pig nose to be like Hog.
Reader You: Is this why the author titled the book, Harold and Hog PRETEND FOR REAL!? Is this all that the book is about, playing the game of pretend?
3.Reviewer Me: Yes. It’s all about that.
Reader You: But, why would a children’s writer do that?
4.Reviewer Me: For Fun, and because that’s what young children do a lot of.
Reader You: Ok. I get that. So, what comes from Elephant’s and Piggie’s playing pretend?
5.Reviewer Me: They IMAGINE things, such as smiling like Harold, dancing and flying like Hog.
Reader You: And, they enjoy doing this?
6.Reviewer Me: It’s a toss up. Seems like Elephant loves pretending. Piggie, not so sure.
Reader You: What happens when they stop pretending?
7.Reviewer Me: They switch roles: Elephant puts on a nose to be Hog, while Piggie puts on eyeglasses to be Harold the Elephant.
Reader You: So, then do they have real fun or pretend fun?
8.Reviewer Me: It’s a toss up. Maybe they have both. At first, it is real fun. But, after a while the real fun fades and the pretend fun steps in.
Reader You: Is that all there is to the book?
9.Reviewer Me: It is, until Pigeon comes along, is invited to join the Pretend Party, refuses, and leaves. He likes being himself.
Reader You: This can’t be the end of the book, right? Tell me how it ends.
10.Reviewer Me: Harold and Hog, Elephant and Piggie, all live happily forever after in Pretendville… Of course not! I threw that ending for fun. Besides, Real Reviewers never give the ending away, only Pretend Reviewers do that.
Reader You: What is the book’s “take-away”?
11.Reviewer Me: For real, this time, I can say that HAROLD and HOG PRETEND FOR REAL is uniquely formatted, funny in its dilemmas, and that there’s a truth in its underlying theme: Pretending to be someone else may be fun. But, being “Piggie” or “Elephant” is all right, too. For REAL.
PatSays, Children’s Book Reviewer, October 12, 2019 (Mrs. Patricia Ann Timbrook)