Mo Willems doesn’t pull any punches. He just comes right out and says that Goldilocks shouldn’t be breaking and entering, that pigeons should, under no circumstances, be allowed to drive buses, and that it is very unwise to lose track of knuffle bunnies. This may be his most endearing quality. He refuses to pander or patronize. He speaks to children with a cool frankness that we generally reserve for adults. He treats them as intelligent, sensible beings, but he also remembers that children have a capacity for wonder and mystery that few adults possess.
Willems celebrates this ability to embrace mystery in Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct. (Hyperion, 2006) In this story, everyone loves Edwina. She’s the kind of dinosaur who carries little old ladies across the street, the kind who does favors for anyone who asks, the kind who bakes chocolate chip cookies. The townspeople, young and old alike, don’t bat an eye at the fact that dinosaurs are extinct. They celebrate Edwina and her cookies, too.
Only Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie objects. He’s the kind of boy (very modern, very adult, wildly informed, unflinchingly skeptical) who knows “just about everything about just about everything,” and he is convinced that dinosaurs are extinct, that Edwina simply cannot be. He doesn’t play with Edwina, and he never eats her cookies.
As always, Willems’ illustrations are simple and striking and hilarious. His words are just the same. He takes Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie from a state of solitary indignation to one of baffled acceptance. Reginald embraces the mystery of Edwina’s existence. His empty belly is finally filled with chocolate chip cookies, and he is delighted. Doubtless, Willems’ readers will be equally thrilled when they discover this insightful story.