Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: Cece Bell

Newbery Honor–winning author-illustrator Cece Bell is well known for her graphic novel El Deafo, the autobiographical book about living with her hearing loss from childhood. In this post, I look at Bell’s picture books and how she uses imagination and more to connect with a younger audience.


Bell’s very own handmade toy inspired her book about Sock Monkey.

The other characters in the series, Blue Pig, Froggie, Miss Bunn, and Sock Buddy are based on real handmade stuffed toys too. This is such a fun and clever story idea because kids love their toys and bring them to life in imaginative play all the time.

The opening in each book introduces the main character, the inciting incident, and the story problem – everything needed for a young audience to pay attention and want to know what's going to happen next.

The first book in the series, Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood: A Star is Bathed(reprinted as Sock Monkey Takes a Bath in 2015), Bell introduces Sock Monkey, a famous toy actor, who receives a special delivery. On the next page readers feel his joy when he’s nominated for an award and invited to the award ceremony.


They experience a very different emotion when it’s revealed that the “invitation made him gasp.” On the invitation the illustration shows -  “Nominees MUST be Clean.”  And from that opening, readers want to know, will Sock Monkey clean up so he can go to Hollywood?

In Sock Monkey Boogie Woogie: A Friend Is Made, the character, inciting incident, and problem all appear on the very first page.

Sock Monkey, the famous toy actor, was going to the Big Celebrity Dance, and he just couldn’t wait.
But there was one problem. He needed a dance partner.

From that opening, a young audience will want to know if Sock Monkey will find a dance partner so he can go to the Big Celebrity Dance.
This is a fun series that shows how Bell uses few words in each opening so young children get invested in her character's journey right away.


Bell’s unique storytelling addresses universal themes such as kindness, generosity, friendship, loneliness, perception, and perseverance through quirky characters.


Can an enormous bee who wears a wig help kids understand that it’s okay to “bee” yourself? That’s exactly the message Bell delivers in Bee-Wigged

Jerry Bee loved people.
But people did not love Jerry Bee.
For one thing, he was a bee.
For another, he was the most enormous bee… 

Can a very tiny, itty bitty dog looking for itty bitty things to make a bone he carved into a cozy home help kids realize it's possible for someone itty bitty to find their place in a great big world?


What makes Bell’s I Yam A Donkey! so laugh out loud funny?

Juxtaposition: Putting two things together that don’t normally go together like a donkey and a yam!

Misunderstandings and conflict: Yam is constantly correcting Donkey’s poor use of grammar as they fight over the proper way to speak.

Wordplay: And what sets off this “who’s on first” comedy routine is Donkey's misuse of yam to Yam, “I yam a Donkey.”

“What did you say? I yam a donkey”?
The proper way to say that is I am a donkey.

A great twist: The ending and moral of this story is surprising and hilarious!

“If you is going to be eaten, good grammar don't matter.”

Bell's new book that releases on November 26th You Loves Ewe also features Donkey and Yam and introduces a new character, Ewe. Grammar-challenged Donkey finds it difficult to understand the concept of homonyms as explained by Yam.

Dig deep into the picture books by Cece Bell to study how she uses imagination, quirky characters, humor, and more to address universal themes while adding emotion to every page. And you'll laugh out loud too! 


  1. I can't wait for You loves Ewe! I Yam a Donkey is one of my favorite books - a great read aloud.

  2. Me too. I know it will be as funny as the I Yam A Donkey! Cece is hilarious.

  3. Yay! I'm so happy that I Yam a Donkey will have a sequel. Thanks for this!