Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children, 2003
If you ever get that funny feeling…don’t panic!
The plot in a nutshell: A set of helpful instructions for going to the bathroom
As various children are playing, they suddenly recognize the urge to pee and helpful mice show up with signs and banners that offer helpful advice on what to do. They ask you not to ignore that feeling, because it is a chance to show how big you are. They advise you to excuse yourself and walk to the bathroom. Then, they suggest, you lift the lid and pull down your underwear. After pointing out that boys can stand, but girls should sit, they count to three and it’s time to pee! Afterwards, when you’re sure you’re finished, you use the toilet paper, flush the toilet and wash your hands. And when you leave the bathroom, your toys are right where you left them and you can get right back to having fun, until you get the feeling again.
Proving that just about any topic can benefit from a little light-heartedness, author/illustrator Mo Willems tackles the sometimes taboo subject of potty training with the perfect mix of straightforwardness and silliness. The straightforward comes in the book’s text, which is casual and supportive, laying out the process step by step with encouraging words and the reassurance that it’s fine to take a break from playing to take care of business because you can just come right back and pick up where you left off.
The silliness is seen in the artwork, as the children pictured have a friendly gang of mice holding up signs, giving them directions and cheering them on. Mr. Willems joked in an interview that kids are more likely to listen to an ‘infestation of mice’ than adults and I think he’s on to something there. There’s a sympathetic reminder at the end that it’s okay if you make a mistake, because you always have other chances to try again. The book’s jacket even doubles as a success chart. I think this would be a great book to read with kids at the potty training stage.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that going to the bathroom can seem like a big interruption in your fun-filled day, but it’s an important step in taking care of your self.