Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Get It On: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems

There's so much to learn about the fascinating little creatures known as naked mole rats, but for this story, you only need to know three things:

1. They are a little bit rat.
2. They are a little bit mole.
3. They are all naked.
Well, they WERE, with one exception...

My local zoo features a colony of mole rats, and believe me, what this critter lacks in charm it makes up in ugly! But that's no hindrance to three-time Caldecott author/illustrator Mo Willems, creator of the best-selling, award-winning Knuffle Bunny books. One look at his hero mole rat Wilbur on the cover, in pink birthday suit contemplating his whitey-tighties, khakis, snappy tie, and blue button-down ensemble, and you gotta know about that one exception....

As all those who march to a different drummer find out, being different gets you noticed. Wilbur causes quite a stir when he shows up fully dressed. "EEEEEUUUUUWWWW!" "Yuck," scream his colony mates! "What are you doing?"

Poor Wilbur is made to feel quite the pariah, even dragged up to view the state portrait of the Grand Pooh-Bah Mole Rat, known as Grand-Pah, posing heroically in all his venerable wrinkled nakedness. But when little Wilbur refuses to recant his sartorial obsession, he faces an irate mob:


"Why not?" asked Wilbur.

This is serious. Wilbur is literally hauled off for an audience with The Grand-Pah himself, who gives it his full attention.

"Hmmm.... Ahhh..." he ruminates. "I shall make a proclamation!"

While the naked mole rats excitedly twitter about the coming proclamation, Wilbur has a more pressing problem: what to wear to the event. Cowboy duds? A super-hero cape and mask? A French beret, tee, and dark glasses? A more formal double-breasted blue blazer?

Then The Grand-Pah speaks.

"Why not indeed? Do clothes hurt anyone? No. Are they fun? Well, they might not be for everyone, but this old naked mole rat wishes he had tried getting dressed earlier."

With the naked mole rat world made safe for costume, Wilbur begins to live his dream, opening a mole rat haberdashery for the would-be sharp dressers out there in the tunnels.

For this story you only need to know three things:

1. Some of the mole rats were naked.
2. Some of the mole rats were clothed.
3. All of mole rats had a great time. No exceptions.

Mo Willems newest picture book, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, shares the unique artistic style and wry, understated humor of his noted Knuffle Bunny and Elephant and Piggie series. Kids will love this one from the engaging cover to the final page showing Wilbur, nattily attired, in his shop, with signage proclaiming "ALL SIZES," "GRAND-PAH APPROVED," and "WHY NOT?"

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