I don’t often review wordless picture books, but I was smitten by this book:
Why? The huge humor and heart factor.
Those who are “only” writers (like me) must infuse the text with heart, and then leave it to illustrators to fulfill what is promised in the text by adding their own form of magic.
Author-illustrators who choose not to use words, must show us irony or straight humor visually, and then pull on our heart strings via the situation and characters’ expressions, including body language.
In PIP & PUP, we are introduced to the pair on the cover, a plump little chick and an adorable puppy.
They’re both new to this fun and sometimes scary world.
In the front end papers, we watch Pip hatch. Those eyes taking in everything around her.
Once out of her shell, that curious Pip explores her world. She searches the farm. But for what?
Someone else who might be a playmate. I love these facing pages, and the parallel between what Pip does and what she sees.
Pip spies the unsuspecting Pup asleep under the tractor. But she won’t be asleep for long. Pip approaches and pecks at her nose. Now, if Pip had pecked the beak of another chick, this may have been an appropriate way to greet a new friend. However, Pip gets a different response: Pup immediately gives chase, startling Pip who flees back through the barnyard and to the safety of her abandoned shell.
We’ve all been chased by something big and scary in this world, and we’ve all tried to hide from it, yes? But then we have to climb back out of our shells to face the world again.
On the farm, the sky grows dark. Lightning sizzles, and it begins to rain. Pip, still inside her bottom shell, pulls the top of her shell down like a hat to shield herself from the rain. She paddles her shell like a boat through puddles until she sees Pup cowering under the tractor. Those sad puppy eyes, drooping ears, and curled tail all indicate the puppy’s fear. Lighting sizzles again, and Pup covers her ears and then her eyes with her paws. Pip watches Pup, then climbs out of her shell.
Pip places her bottom eggshell on top of Pup’s head, a gesture so loving and ironically inadequate it fills my heart to overflowing. That eggshell cannot shield Pup from her real fear, let alone the pouring rain.
So Pip entices Pup to forget her fear by playing—until the sun shines again. The distraction works! But Pup in her joy accidentally rolls over Pip’s shells, crushing them to bits.
Pup’s expression of remorse as she looks at what she has done, and Pip’s downcast expression and bowed head, lead Pup to make a similar gesture of friendship and love that ironically just misses the mark.
Just how is Pip going to play with that ball? We LOVE Pup’s effort to repair the friendship. And we know that the two will remain friends, accepting and adapting to their differences, thoughtfully repairing the missteps or misunderstandings that happen in any friendship.
So there you have it, humor with heart. Easy right? In the resources below, I’ve paired PIP & PUP with TREVOR by Jim Averbeck, another book that features a phenomenal mix of humor and heart, although it achieves this feat through a brilliant pairing of text and illustrations.
A note about trim size: PIP & PUP has a much wider width than height, perfect for showing events that are close to the ground (a true child’s perspective) and that take up long horizontal space, like the barnyard chase and the spread that features a series of vignettes showing the pair at play. It makes the world of this book feel much bigger than its small characters. An inspired choice!
Prepare blown eggshell decorations, using this Youtube video.And then harden them with modpodge before decorating with sharpies or paint.
Discuss what it means to be a friend, using this guide
Pair this book with TREVOR by Jim Averbeck. Teacher’s guide: Social and emotional learning.
Title: Pip & Pup
Author/Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin
Publisher: Henry Holt, 2018
Ages: preschool-1st grade
Themes: Friendship, apologies, empathy
You can find a wealth of perfect picture book recommendations at Susanna Hill’s blog.