Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! is a slight departure from the usual Mo Willems picture-book titles in that he has chosen to present it as a collection of “6½ stories about two surprising friends” — gotta love the ½!
Best read in sequence, each story or chapter (ranging from four to 16 pages) centres around a different ‘surprise’ and is a light and humorous exploration of how simple and wonderful friendship can be — all without sounding trite or hackneyed. Accompanied by adorably expressive artwork, the witty text is mostly written in the form of (highly entertaining) dialogue.
While clearly inspired by Calvin and Hobbes, Amanda and her alligator share a special bond of their own, and have distinct personalities. Amanda, in particular, is a smart, spunky library-goer with a kooky taste in books (Climbing Things for Fun and Profit, anybody?), while her alligator is silly and sweet, and suffers from the occasional bout of insecurity. Never mind that alligator is actually a stuffed toy — a fact that is only very lightly alluded to by him never leaving the house and basically left twiddling his fingers until Amanda returns home — the twosome’s endearing interactions feel real and relatable, and are the stuff that true friendships are made of.
p.s. I particularly loved the author’s subtle ode to books and reading throughout the book: not only is Amanda constantly pictured reading or around books, but at one point, the wise little girl even states, “Reading beats boredom.” And, when you read a one-of-a-kind book like this, you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree with her.