Literature: Elephant & Piggie
Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.
Gerald and Piggie are best friends.Elephant & Piggie is a series of children's books for early readers. They are written and drawn by Mo Willems (best known for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!), and debuted in 2007.The books center on two Funny Animal friends, Gerald the elephant and Piggie the pig. Each book tends to center on everyday activities, often addressing issues of friendship along the way. While Gerald is a down-to-earth realist, Piggie is an eternal optimist, and the difference between the two personalities often drives the dialog.The books have won the Geisel Medal in 2008 and 2009, and have been listed twice on Time magazine's Top 10 Children's Books of the Year.
These books demonstrate the following tropes:
- An Aesop: Once per book, though usually in a very subtle way.
- Accidental Art: In "Elephants Cannot Dance", Gerald's frustrated tantrum at his failure to learn how to dance is interpreted by a pair of passing squirrels as a hot new dance move, "The Elephant."
- Adult Fear / Getting Crap Past the Radar: As this article from 2012 notes, it is very easy to read "We Are In a Book!" as a meditation on the fear of death, once Gerald realizes the book is going to end.Gerald: I HAVE MORE TO GIVE!
- All There in the Manual: Done in-story in "Elephants Cannot Dance". When Piggie tries to teach Gerald to dance, he quotes from "What Elephants Can Do", pointing out the clause that says elephants can't dance.
- Argument of Contradictions: In I'm a Frog!, Gerald and Piggie get into one of these when Piggie asks Gerald if he, too, wants to be a frog and Gerald replies "I cannot." They go back-and-forth with "No, I can't! "Yes, you can!" a total of six times, before Gerald shouts "No! I CAN'T!" and Piggie decides to ask Gerald just why it is he can't pretend to be a frog. The punchline? "Because I am a cow. Moooooooooooo!"
- Big "NO!"/Big Word Shout: Often from Gerald, but sometimes from Piggie too, like in "Can I Play Too?", in which Piggie refuses to accept that their new friend Snake can't play catch with them.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Each of the books usually has at least one moment per book where Piggie looks directly at the reader and snarks a bit.
- Brick Joke
- Broken Treasure: A variation occurs in "I Love My New Toy!" Piggie is madly in love with a strange new toy she's received; when Gerald throws and breaks it, Piggie becomes furious. The crisis is averted when a passerby identifies it as a "break-it-fix-it toy" that's intended to be repeatedly broken and mended... and then gets subverted when Gerald and Piggie decide to play together instead, ignoring the toy.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: A recurring characteristic of Gerald and Piggie's dynamic. It also forms the plot of "My Friend Is Sad".
- The Cloud Cuckoolander Was Right: See the first example under Crazy-Prepared below.
Gerald: "What if it's a costume party?"Piggie: "A fancy pool costume party?"Gerald: "WE MUST BE READY!"
- Invoked in "I Am Invited to a Party!" when Piggie receives a party invitation and asks Gerald to accompany her. Worried that it might be a fancy pool costume party, Gerald convinces Piggie to attend in fancy evening wear, snorkling gear, and a costume. He's right.
- In "Let's Go for a Drive!", after hitting on the idea of going for a drive, Gerald decides that they need 1) a map to find out the way, 2) sunglasses if it's too sunny, 3) umbrellas if it rains, 4) bags for their stuff, and finally 5) a car. Their preparations come to naught when they realize they don't have a car, so they play pirate instead.
- A Dog Named Dog: Piggie is, of course, a pig.
- Dream-Crushing Handicap: Played straight, subverted, and double-subverted in "Can I Play Too?". Played straight when Gerald and Piggie are playing catch and a snake optimistically asks to join them, despite his lack of arms or hands. Subverted when — after several painful failures — the snake finally concedes he isn't physically capable of playing catch. Double-subverted when Piggie has the idea to throw the snake between herself and Gerald, thus "playing catch" with him.
- End of Series Awareness/Medium Awareness/No Fourth Wall/Noticing The Fourth Wall/Stable Time Loop: "We Are In A Book!" packs an impressive number of tropes into a slim children's book. Elephant and Piggie suddenly realize that someone is watching them, and quickly conclude that a reader is watching them and that they are in a book. They have a lot of fun with this until Elephant realizes that the book is about to end and panics. The dilemma is resolved when Elephant and Piggie ask the reader to read them again. Stable Time Loop comes into play on the first page, when Piggie winks at the reader and says "thank you".
- Excited Show Title!: Many of the book titles.
- Eye Glasses: As the illustration shows, Gerald is a typical example. His glasses will get bigger and smaller according to his mood.
- Genki Girl: Piggie.
- Gentle Giant: In "A Big Guy Took My Ball!", Gerald sets out to retrieve the ball from the "big guy" who took it from Piggie, only to find out to his shock that the "big guy" is a gigantic blue whale. The whale is sad, because he's so big that no one will play with him.Big Guy: Little guys have all the fun.
- Great Big Book of Everything: "Elephants Cannot Dance" has the hardcover book "What Elephants Can Do".
- Heroic Vow: In "Can I Play Too?", Piggie insists on finding a way for the snake to play catch with them.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl
- I Can't Dance: Gerald, as seen in "Elephants Cannot Dance".
- Ironic Echo
- Kindhearted Simpleton: Piggie plays this role from time to time.
- Loophole Abuse: Invoked in "Can I Play Too?"; when Gerald and Piggie are playing catch, a snake asks to join them, despite his lack of appendages. Gerald and Piggie end up throwing the snake between them."I love playing catch with my friends!"
- Also occurs in "Elephants Cannot Dance," when Piggie notes that Gerald's book of "Things Elephants Can Do" doesn't bar him from trying to dance.
- The Merch: There's a plush toy - they come together and are bonded by velcro.
- The Moving Experience: "I Am Going!" features Piggie declaring just that, and Gerald taking it to mean that she's moving away and start panicking. Who will he skip with, play Ping-Pong with and wear silly hats with? When Piggie is finally able to get a word in edgewise, she explains that she's just going to lunch.
- Non-Ironic Clown: One of the things Piggie tries to do to cheer Gerald up in "My Friend Is Sad" is to dress up as a funny clown.
- Only Sane Elephant: Gerald often sees himself as this.
- Platonic Life Partners
- Plucky Girl: Piggie often falls into this role, especially if Gerald tells her something she tries to do is impossible.Gerald: "You will not fly today. You will not fly tomorrow. You will not fly next week. YOU WILL NEVER FLY!"(beat)Piggie: "I will try."
- Rain, Rain, Go Away: Drives the plot in "Are You Ready to Play Outside?"
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Piggie is red to Gerald's blue.
- Serious Business: Sometimes Gerald gets very serious over everyday events, such as attending a party ("I Am Invited to a Party!") or throwing balls ("Watch Me Throw The Ball!")."I worked very hard to learn how to throw a ball."
- Shaggy Dog Story: Occurs in "I Broke My Trunk!" Gerald broke his trunk not from lifting three heavy animals (and a piano) with his trunk, but because he tripped when he rushed to tell Piggie what he had done.
- Shout-Out: The inside covers of each book feature a repeating pattern related to the story at hand; the pattern inside the back cover always includes a cameo by the Pigeon from Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus! series. Additionally, the one in Pigs Make Me Sneeze! shows Piggie clutching a Knuffle Bunny for comfort because she caught Gerald's cold.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Done sometimes by Piggie for comedic purposes — such as the time she threw a ball that landed behind her, then concluded that it must've landed there because she threw the ball around the world.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: In "I Broke My Trunk!" Hippo's sister shows up. Hippo's sister is marked as a girl by having big round eyes (Hippo's eyes are dots) and eyelashes, and she is wearing a bow.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Piggie's reaction when Gerald breaks her new toy in "I Love My New Toy!". "That makes me...MAD!".
- Visible Silence: Gerald has the typical word balloon with three ellipses in it when Piggie asks him if he got the ball back in "A Big Guy Took My Ball!". He didn't get it back because the big guy is a blue whale.
- What You Are in the Dark: In "Should I Share My Ice Cream?", Gerald gets some ice cream while Piggie is off somewhere else. Gerald spends the whole book debating whether to eat all the ice cream before Piggie comes back. He finally decides he will share his ice cream with Piggie, only to realize that all his ice cream has melted. Piggie finally shows up with her own ice cream, which she shares with Gerald.