Authors: Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Word Count: Unlisted
Top 10 Element: Word Play
I am participating in Picture Books 14:14, a challenge created by Christie of Write Wild that encourages bloggers to review 14 picture books in 14 days, starting on Feb. 14th.
As soon as I saw the topic of word play, I knew that I had to include E-Mergency!. Our school was lucky enough to have Tom Lichtenheld come for an extended author visit a few years back, and E-Mergency! has been a permanent favorite since then. My copy is so terribly battered that even the tape has been taped.
Analysis: Word PlayE-Mergency! tells the story of what happens when letter E came down the stairs a little too fast and had to be taken to the emergency room. All of the other letters realize that they must work together to lessen E's workload, and poor O is chosen to do the heavy lifting. This is when the word play really kicks into high gear.
In an effort to help E recuperate, O then replaces her. Get ready, because if you are sharing this book as a read aloud, you will want to have practiced beforehand. The letter A and the exclamation point kick off the official announcement:
A: E is injorod and can't work, so O must bo usod instoad of E.
!: Do! Not! Uso! E! Until! Sho! Rocovors! Or! You! Could! Inflict! Pormanont! Injury!!
See what I mean? And it just gets better from there. From store signs to newspapers to student lunch menus, the loss of E impacts everything. But E is still not getting better. Only after several false attempts do the letters discover the root cause - the narrator has continued to use the letter E. Once the fourth wall has been broken and the narrator chastised, then E is able to return to her usual, perky self.
The word play is constant throughout this book and even hidden in the illustrations. The letters are always arranged intentionally in every layout, and deciphering these hidden gems will keep kids returning to this book again and again. If you look carefully at the opening spread with the house, you will find D and C discussing comics in the attic, N and V eyeing I's kite, Z trying to sleep, F getting reprimanded for his report card, and more.
One of my favorite bits of word play happens in the scene when the paramedics are getting E bandaged up. Y asks, "Why isn't E even crying?" and O responds, "Sometimes she's a silent E." (Bonus, Y and O are standing on the stair case next to U, C, and H. Youch!)
My students' favorite hidden word play? In the opening house spread, The letter P is in the bathroom. And in the house party scene at the end of the book who is in the bathroom? (The number 2.)
* Addenda! *
After tweeting out this post earlier today, author Tom Lichtenheld replied with a link to the original You Tube video by co-author Ezra Fields-Meyer that spurred this book:
Want more picture book analyses? Click here to read my other posts for Picture Books 14:14 or check out these other great posts for the Picture Book 14:14 Challenge going on the rest of this month.