Hooray For Amanda & Her Alligator!

ISBN-10: 006200400X
ISBN-13: 9780062004000
Author: Willems, Mo
Illustrated by: Willems, Mo
Interest Level: K-3
Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 2011

Copyright: 2011

Page Count: 72

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Interest Level

Grades K-3

Reading Level

Lexile: AD490L
Accelerated Reader Level: 2.5
Accelerated Reader Points: 0.5

BISAC Subjects

JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Friendship

JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Emotions & Feelings

Amanda and her alligator have lots of fun together, but when Amanda's grandfather buys her a panda, Alligator must learn to make new friends.
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AACPS Grade 1 Collections

AACPS Grade 1: Picture Books

Mo Willems Author & Illustrator Study


Cheryl Dickemper, Collection Development Manager

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9/21/2011 3:15:51 PM
Mo Willems’s latest book may not have the mass commercial appeal of the Knuffle Bunny books, but Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator has an awful lot to offer in an educational setting. While the size and layout place the book within the picture book category, it pushes at the boundaries of format. This picture book is divided into exactly 6 ½ chapters, and text reads much like an emergent reader series (fans of the Elephant and Piggie book will appreciate the simple text). The story combines elements of many Mo Willems favorites—the bond between a child and her favorite stuffed toy, the ups and downs of being best friends, and the frustration of an exuberant character not getting what he wants. And, as Mo Willems’s readers expect, the book is both funny and clever.

The Humor of Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator relies in part on wordplay; the book often calls attention to the different forms a word can take. Surprise, for example, is used in the title of each chapter, sometimes as a noun and sometimes as an adjective. The first chapter is titled “A Surprising Surprise,” and chapter two is called “An Un-Surprising Surprise.” Readers will also find multiple layers of meaning in words like “worth” and “value” (when Alligator finds a price tag on his tail that says he cost seven cents, young readers with their own favorite stuffed animals will realize his value to Amanda is far greater). In addition, Willems has a bit of fun with flipping the meaning of Alligator’s statement that “something tickles” (readers will assume something is tickling Alligator) into the “something” that tickles being Alligator (tickling Amanda).

This book also invites students to make many connections—both text to text and text to self. Students will naturally draw comparisons to their own feelings about favorite stuffed animals at home. When a new friend is brought home and Alligator feels a little angry and jealous, readers might recognize how they have felt when a pair of friends became a trio or when a new sibling joined the family. Students can make connections across the separate chapters as well (how the use of “surprise” changes in the chapter titles, for example). Obviously, there are numerous comparisons to be drawn between this text and other books by Mo Willems. How is the friendship of Amanda and Alligator similar to, or different from, that of Piggie and Elephant? How is the point of view in this book (showing mostly Alligator’s thoughts and feelings) different from that in Knuffle Bunny (focusing on Trixie’s thoughts and feelings)? How is Alligator similar to/different from Pigeon? Also, and this may be stretching a bit farther, there are comparisons to be made between the type of humor in this book and that in Amelia Bedelia. Alligator either interprets things literally or differently than everyone else—when Amanda says “books beat boredom,” Alligator eats them instead of reading them; when Alligator tells Amanda he has a surprise for her, instead of giving her a present, he yells “Boo!”; when Amanda says he’ll need to put on “his Old Thinking Cap” to surprise her again, he actually puts on a literal thinking cap.

In addition to the connections students might make, the format of Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator begs for it to be used to talk about summarizing. The chapters offer a natural place to pause if it is being read aloud. Because the chapter titles are less than straightforward, students will have to think about how they apply to the portion of the book just read. In a read aloud, the teacher could write the chapter title on the board, then pause at the end of the chapter to ask students to reflect on how that title summarizes the chapter just read.

The simple, expressive illustrations are classic Willems, and the character education message about friendship is a favorite theme among the elementary school set. However, this story does not lend itself as easily to a raucous read aloud like the Pigeon books, and its multiple chapters make the plot thread a little harder for young readers to grasp in one reading. This book demands a little more from the reader than some previous Willems books have, making it a fantastic book to use for the kind of literary study called for in the Common Core State Standards.