Books Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books Reading Themes When Words are Not Enough

A Wordless Tale of Tails and Friendship: Eric Carle’s Do you want to be my Friend?

With Eric Carle’s distinctive two-dimensional illustrations brimming with textured almost-3d colors (bright green, purple, and golden brown), he introduces this endearing little mouse in his book published in 1971 entitled “Do You Want to be My Friend?” – a post for our Bimonthly special “When Words are Not Enough” – a Wordless Picture Book special for the months of March and April.

Tails signifying Possible Friends. In this story book, we are introduced to a cute aquamarine mouse with luminous pink ears who begins the book with an eager “Do You Want to be My Friend?” to an animal with only its bushy tail evident and sticking out from the page. Turning the page reveals that the bushy tail belongs to a horse who seemed oblivious to our little mouse’s offers of friendship.

Whose green tail is this? Add a fuschia-feathered pointed tail - what animals could these two be?

This sets the tone for the entire book – I could imagine young toddlers squealing in delight and being deeply engaged in the plot and subplot of the story, possibly offering their educated guesses based on the hint of a tail, suggestions of a feather or a fur as could be seen in the right hand page.

A golden yellowed tail... what could it be, go on squeaky little mouse, find out in the next page!

Note to Parents and Teachers. At the beginning of the book, there is a detailed set of instructions as to how this book can be of benefit to young pre-readers. This explains fully why the tails are positioned in the right side of the page, and their identities revealed as the child turns to the next page. The note indicates:

There is beauty here, and fun – but there is learning too. Specially planned for the prereading child, this book teaches basic skills of reading readiness. The ingenious placement of the pictures shows the child the correct direction in which to turn the pages. The simple but strong story, even without words, must be “read” from left to right, instilling the idea of linear sequences and forming a groundwork on which to build correct reading habits.

Now what is that bright blue plumage?? Must be the one, the only, the theatrical animal himself ... any clues?

The introductory note also encourages the very young child to improvise and develop his or her own story based on the possible animals that a flip of the page could bring. More than this, a great deal of discussion questions could likewise be raised especially for a young preschool age child who may be struggling to make friends in their new school. The book title “Do you want to be my friend?” may actually resonate with most young kids’ realities. Or come to think of it, among most of our realities, regardless of age.

Teacher Resources. There is a great deal of website resources devoted to this book and to most of Eric Carle’s other picture books. This link which is designed and compiled by Jennifer Buoy does not only involve this wordless picture book but also includes eight more books as written and illustrated by the genius Eric Carle, including the famous “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” A detailed workshop based from Eric Carle’s books that runs until Day 22 could be found in Buoy’s site.

Whose tail is that sticking out of the page? Why so high that our little mouse needs to jump right up?

A detailed lesson plan as prepared by Michelle Hubbard demonstrates how this wordless picture book by Carle could be used to introduce the theme of making friends, developing social skills, and recognizing social cues which indicate that a peer would want to be friends with them. The website also includes other books that can be introduced to children with “friendship” as its main theme. Activities also include play-acting and song-suggestions to end the day.

This activity sheet prepared by Jeremy Brunaccioni shares how he made use of painted paper ala Eric Carle when he discussed this book with his class. He also included a detailed set of directions how to set up and prepare supplemental materials that could likewise be used to introduce the book to his pupils.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Eric Carle is one of the most internationally acclaimed and beloved children’s author of all times. His website indicates that over 90 million copies of his books have been in the hearts, minds, and bookcases of children the world over. His distinctive art is described to be created in collage technique using hand-painted papers which are subsequently cut, layered, and occasionally embedded with twinkling lights to add even greater dimension and texture to the art work. As I was reading his bio from his official website, there was one quote from him which I believe is perfect for this wordless picture book that we are featuring here. In this passage, Eric Carle explains why he continues touching children’s hearts through his hand-crafted books:

With many of my books I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?

I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.

Would our translucent blue mouse with luminous pink ears find a friend at the end of the tail.. err tale? Read this 40-year old book to find out.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 32 of 72

Do You Want to be my Friend? By Eric Carle. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1971. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “A Wordless Tale of Tails and Friendship: Eric Carle’s Do you want to be my Friend?

  1. Pingback: Beginning April with a March Round-up |

  2. Pingback: Reading in April’s Heat: An April Round-up |

  3. Pingback: List of Wordless Picture Books: A Gathering Books Recommendation |

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