Mo Willems is one of the most respected modern children’s book writers, best known for his Elephant & Piggie series. But his one-offs are where the heartstrings typically get pulled, for he is capable of producing works that are as touching as his core brand is funny. Because is one of his most inspirational books to date, a new release from Disney Hyperion.
Because tells the story of how little things can have a big effect. It starts with Beethoven inspiring Schubert, which lead to symphonies around the world performing his music. Each sentence begins with the word “Because” and it ultimately leads to a young girl whose uncle is too sick to attend the symphony, so her aunt brings her in his place. This inspires a lifelong love of music in her and she grows up to compose and conduct her own symphonies.
Illustrations are provided by Amber Wren, a CalArts graduate who works in animation. Her style is full of charming details and musical elements are hidden in every page. She also represents every skin tone and religion in her illustrations, presenting diverse representation in these pages. On a subliminal level, it serves to underscore the fact that music is for everybody. She also makes great use of color, with golden ribbons of music adding a magical quality to the story.
The interior of the cover features sheet music. At the beginning, it’s “Symphony no. 8 in B-minor” by Franz Schubert, but in the back it’s a song called “The Cold” by Hilary Purrington. This song was written specifically for this book and Purrington herself is not unlike the girl in the story, who was inspired at a young age to write her own symphony.
Because can be used as a source of inspiration for your kids. While music may not be their forte, there may be other things in life that inspire them to pursue a lifelong interest. The dedication by Willems reveals that his “Because” was Charles M. Schulz, creator of The Peanuts. For parents, it might create an opportunity to review your own journey and think about your own “Because.”
I’m under the impression that Mo Willems couldn’t write a bad book if he tried. Because his work is primarily published by Disney Hyperion, I’ve reviewed quite a lot of titles from him and I recommend all of them. Whether you’re already familiar with his work or not, Because is sure to be a treasured addition to your own library of children’s books.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.