Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems and published by Hyperion Books for Children (2010) is gem of a picture book. It opens with Elephant and Piggie sitting and smiling while tossing a football. I like how Willems then does the unexpected. A snake shows up and asks to play. The snake is delightful looking, not the usual slithery, slimy kind. The reader wonders how can the snake be part of Elephant and Piggie’s game and eagerly turns each page to find out.

Piggie and Elephant try a different kind of ball. That doesn’t work. Getting into more trouble, they try more balls. This ends up with wonderful illustrations of “bonks” hitting snake. He can’t catch a ball. The reason why? He has no arms. He’s a snake. When all seems impossible, Piggie has a bright idea which is shown by a light bulb. Piggie and Elephant end up tossing snake. After all he’s their friend and they wouldn’t think of playing without him.

Once again Willems captures a serious theme of friendship in a light-hearted manner that speaks volumes. And he prompts us to take a new look at many of our unspoken fears, like snakes. Who would have thought to explore friendship in this way?

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is married and the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.”

She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

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