Mar 19, 2012

For Peet's Sake, Check These Out!

Let me start by saying I’m a fan of book blogs. Booklist, School Library Journal, and Hornbook were my “suppliers” for hooking up with new titles before the advent of blogs, but now reviews of new and special titles feed right into my digital links. My current vote for the coolest blog about kids’ books goes to The Nerdy Book Club. Day after day, each post reminds me of familiar, well-loved titles or introduces me to amazing new books.

Sarah Wendorf’s March 10 post on Memorable Read Aloud Titles included many of my own favorite titles. Right there, smack dab in the middle of her list, was Bill Peet's The Whingdingdilly!
In case you don't know the book, here's the essence of a fantasy story rooted in genuine experiences: Scamp the dog has been in a mournful mood for weeks, weary of life as a dog and longing for a change. "Oops, be careful what you wish for", right?

There is something in the way Bill Peet captures Scamp's inner voice that reminds me of Katherine Applegate's Ivan of the incredible The One and Only Ivan. It shouldn't be a surprise, considering that Peet was major creative voice behind Disney's Dumbo and many other unforgettable characters.

Bill Peet, like Theo "Seuss" Geisel, Jan Berenstain, and so many other creators of remarkable kids' books, left behind a collection of classics. Just a few of his titles will be listed here with links, but all are featured in rich detail on Peet's web page.

Cock-a-Doodle Dudley, The Wump World, and
Caboose Who Got Loose are some of my favorites. You can view a reading of his eerily timeless, almost prescient Wump World here.
Current picture book publishing emphasizes text of 400-800 words (at most), but his books are perfect examples of complex, vocabulary-rich, multi-layered stories for established readers. In fact, I recommend using a collection of Bill Peet's books to introduce author studies up through middle school and beyond.

I'm not a fan of the famous (or infamous) Accelerated Reader listings, but their reading “levels” for his titles range from a rare 3.5 (Eli), a 3.7 (The Gnats of Knotty Pine, an authentic practice opportunity for silent consonants) through to 6.9 Bill Peet: An Autobiography. More importantly, the length and content allow established readers to consider unknown words, nonsense words, wry humor, irony, deep themes, and complex stories within the time constraints of crowded school days. Some specific word counts include: The Wump World- 1542 words; Whingdingdilly- 3424 words; Huge Harold- 1660 words; Fly, Homer, Fly- 3218 words; and Bill Peet: An Autobiography- 17,358 words. His website offer richly detailed insights into his work, including this sketch of an early version of a cover for his autobiography.

Peet's books are widely available on library shelves and should be making their way into the hands of readers of many ages. Wouldn't it make a great discussion to compare readings of Mo Willems titles and his background working on Sesame Street to Bill Peet titles and his long career with Disney?

After learning more about these two, who wouldn't want to grow up and become a maker of books for kids? It certainly made Bill Peet a happy man.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jenny, and for the kind words. Hope you have a chance to share these titles with others.

  2. Whingdingdilly sounds like it would be so much fun to read aloud!

    1. Absolutely! The NBC Blog post (about unforgettable read-alouds) helped Scamp return to my attention for that very reason. I really like the idea of older readers rehearsing and reading full book texts like this to younger readers, too. Thanks so much for stopping by again.


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