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The Work of Mo Willems

Info: 1296 words (5 pages) Essay
Published: 10th May 2021 in Media

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Mo Willems

Mo Willems won six Emmy Awards while he was a writer and animator for Sesame Street. He is an author and illustrator of over fifty children’s books. He earned awards for six of his books. His first book that was published Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! won the Caldecott Honor Award. He won Theodore Seuss Geisel awards for his books There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside? He is best known for his Pigeon series and Knuffle Bunny series. The first book of his Knuffle bunny series was Knuffle Bunny: a cautionary tale which won the Caldecott Honor Award. Mo Willem was born in Illinois and grew up in New Orleans. Willems's interest in cartoons and drawing started at the age of four. Then he began writing stories about his drawing. He graduated from New York University's Tisch School of Arts. He then began his career with Sesame Street. After that, he began writing his children's books. Several of his books have been turned into theatrical musicals and short animations. He is married to Cheryl Camp and they have one child, Trixie. An experience with his daughter Trixie is what inspired Willem to write the Knuffle Bunny series. Other book series he wrote are Elephant and Piggie, Leonardo, Cat the Cat, and Order of Time. He has also written several stand-alone books.

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Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is one of my favorite books to read with my children. The illustrations of this book are quite simple. The pigeon is light blue and outlined in black with a neutral background and a simple black typewriter-like lettering on most of the pages. This book is about a bus driver going on break and asking the reader to keep an eye on his bus and the pigeon that wants to drive the bus badly. The mischievous pigeon begs and pleads you, the reader, to let him drive the bus. Willems captures the pigeon’s emotions by simple changes such as the eye and wing movement of the bird. My kids love how he makes the pigeon peek in from the side of the page when he is pleading for something. When the pigeon realizes he is not going to get his way he finally erupts into a full-blown tantrum. I feel that Willems uses the background color to help express the pigeon’s freak out by changing the background color from a neutral color to a bright color. He also highlights around the letters during the pigeon’s freak out to help them pop up off the page. These small details help set the emotions of the tantrum pages. Once the driver is back and drives off the pigeon is sulking until a red truck comes along. He then begins dreaming of this big red truck. This book takes you through the many emotions of the pigeon as he is being told no.

There Is a Bird on Your Head! is a wonderful book that will make you giggle. The way this book is written makes it fun and easy for young readers to enjoy too. The illustrations are simple, and the colors are neutral. The text is written in bubble form, as are most of Mo Willems's books in this series of Elephant and Piggie. The story is not only written in words, but it is also written in the illustrations by exaggerated expressions of two friends with opposite personalities. This book begins with a bird landing on Gerald’s head. He asks his friend, Piggie, if there is something on his head. When Piggie happily states that there is a bird on his head Gerald’s dramatic facial expression and body gestures capture how freaked out he is by a bird being on his head. As the story continues the problem only grows. Piggie is always so happy-go-lucky as he continues to tell Gerald what is on his head and what is happening on his head. Gerald loses his mind when the two birds begin to build a nest and have three eggs on his head. Piggie wanting to be the best friend and eager to help with the problem suggests a simple solution. He tells Gerald to just ask the birds to move. This works out perfectly for Gerald because the birds agree to move, but it caused Piggie to have a problem of his own. Willems uses broken lines to show different movements on certain pages. The simple illustrations go along with this funny story that helps urge readers to read with different tones and exaggerations.

Are You Ready to Play Outside? is a sweet story of two friends wanting to play outside. The illustrations are simple, yet perfect for this book. Elephant and Piggie are excited and happy about playing outside together on a beautiful day. Their day is ruined by a tiny “plink” of rain. Then the situation only continues to get worse until it is pouring down rain. Willem did a great job of exaggerating the rain by drawing long thick black lines that represent the rain downpour. Piggie only continues to become more upset. The illustrations help catch his frustrated emotion by his exaggerated facial expressions and the text in his bubble becomes huge and almost covers the whole page. Gerald comes up with a solution to help Piggie by blocking him from the water with his ear. The friends notice two small worms enjoying the rain and the friends come up with the idea they might be able to have fun in the rain too. Once they decide the rain is fun the rain stops. Piggie becomes upset again because now that he liked the rain it stopped. Once again, Gerald comes up with a solution and begins spraying Piggie with water from his trunk. This book would be a great resource to teach children that even though things are different, and we are all different it is okay to play and have fun together.

Knuffle Bunny: a cautionary tale is a story about a little girl that went to the laundromat with her daddy and she lost something super important to her. The illustrations are beautiful pictures of Willems neighborhood in a sepia color. The characters in the book are in a cartoon comic type drawing on top of the real pictures of the neighborhood. Trixie and her father take the clothes to the laundromat and they go back home. Only on the way home, Trixie started to say something to her daddy by babbling made-up words. She becomes more upset when her daddy is not understanding what she is trying to say. So, she begins to freak out and cry all the way home. Once they are home Trixie's mommy comes out to see what was wrong and asked where Knuffle Bunny was. The whole family runs back to the laundromat and found Knuffle Bunny. This book shows us that language is important, and we need to learn to understand the many different forms of our children. This amusing book seems like it would entertain small children that would try to mimic Trixie’s made-up language and relate to not being able to speak perfectly.

Mo Willems is a great author and illustrator. His simple illustrations go along great with his humorous books. The way he writes makes it to where any age group can enjoy and laugh out loud at his books. He is one of my favorite children’s book authors.



“Mo Willems.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2020, kids.britannica.com/students/article/Mo-Willems/628349.

“Mo Willems.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mo_Willems.

Willems, Mo. Are You Ready to Play Outside? Walker Books, 2013.

Willems, Mo. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Walker Books, 2018.

Willems, Mo. Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale. Hyperion, 2011.

Willems, Mo. There Is a Bird on Your Head!: an Elephant & Piggie Book. Hyperion Books for Children, 2007.



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