MO WILLEMS Pigeons, Pigs, & People Illustrator Study by Susan Warnick
Mo Willems’ Funny Drawings “ I’ve drawn ever since I was a child, and I lived a lot of my life through making cartoons and telling my own stories.”
Mo Willems • Born: February 11, 1968 • Hometown: New Orleans, LA • Current City: Brooklyn, NY • Family: Wife & daughter • Career: Author, illustrator, and animator • Worked for Sesame Street, where he earned six Emmy awards for his writing • Created two animated series for Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network
Childhood Dreams “I loved ‘Peanuts.’ I read those comics all the time. It was the only comic strip where the main character was not happy. I thought that was very realistic. Childhood is not always a happy time. There’s a lot of learning and stress.” “It was also very funny. I loved his drawings. I drew Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Then, as I grew, I started drawing my own characters. I even wrote Charles Schultz saying that I wanted his job when I grew up and he died.”
A BookIsa Friend “A book sits there waiting for you to pick it up whether you want it or not…because a book is a friend. It’s not just the content, but the physical being of a book that is there for you always and unconditionally.”
My “Punk Rock” Pigeon “I kept making doodles, and this character kept bugging me – the pigeon, it turned out to be.” The pigeon acted like a child. When I was a child I was always being told, “No.” It’s great to yell “No!” It’s very punk rock. I go to a library. I’ve got 500 kids yelling at the top of their lungs, “No!” in the library. “That just rocks. It’s a very super-cool thing.”
Demanding Doodles“ I just spent the day doodling this pigeon.” “When I create a character, it’s very important to me that a four-year-old can reasonably draw that character, because I think the book is only one part of the experience.” “Characters must come alive, so kids can create their own comics and their own books using my characters, like I started with Charlie Brown.” Click here to learn how to draw the pigeon.
His First Star Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Caldecott 2004 “I bet your mom would let me.” Minimal design focusing on the pigeon Each page like a freeze frame of cartoon footage Action, expressions & humor captured with just a few words Clean, simple, child–like drawings and eight vignettes of tantrums Scratchy black and yellow lettering
K-k-k-nuffle Bunny Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale – Caldecott Honor 2005 Style influenced by being an animator “Aggle flabble kabble….snurp?” Brightly colored human & stuffed bunny cartoon characters in “retro” style on top of black & white photographs of a New York City neighborhood Created a funny and new way of illustrating a children’s picture book by imposing cartoon characters on black & white photographs. Can you find the pigeon in the book?
Double K-nuffle Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity – Caldecott Honor 2008 “That is not my bunny.” Cartoon–style art, set against black & white photos of NYC inside & out; shows lots of detail Comic book style panels help pace the action. Can you find the pigeon? Differences in bunnies? Mention of other books?
Final K-nuffleKnuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion “As a kid it was a big thing for me to go to Holland…Holland is a beautiful place…Trixie was named after my daughter who is now nine. It was time for Trixie to be free.” Trixie had to take a trip. She was living in a new world. She realized that she didn’t have to live with her bunny anymore. Click here to have fun with Trixie
Piggie & Elephant Mo created the Elephant and Piggie books, a series of “Easy Readers,” which have been honored with the (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award three times. The books are filled with humor. The books have simple illustrations and brief sentences. The words almost seem to make the illustrations move. His illustrations have simple lines which focus on the important character on each page. 2011
Other Geisel Awards His books aren’t made to be just read. He wants them to be “played.” 2008 2009 Click here to play with Elephant and Piggie
Will Mo Willems Be the NextDr. Seuss? He draws funny cartoon illustrations on plain backgrounds. His text has only a few words in dialogue balloons. This makes these books “just right” for new readers.
Time with Mo The silly illustrations and situations in these books make them fun to read. He uses dialogue balloons and a large bold font. Children find a lesson and a laugh in this uncluttered format.
Laugh with Leonardo The illustrations in this book remind kids of the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. Leonardo wants to be a big terrible monster like Max did. But he isn’t terrible at all. Click Here to Play with Leonardo
Edwina is extinct.She just doesn’t care! This book is written with funny text and cartoon illustrations. Children search for hidden pictures of the pigeon and Knuffle Bunnya Click here to find Edwina
Naked or Not? With simple drawings of silly-looking naked mole rats, Mo Willems focuses on Wilber, the naked mole rat who dares to be different. He loves getting dressed. It’s a little like the mouse Despereaux in The Tale of Despereaux. Click Here to Draw and Dress Mole Rat
Two Books in One ! Mo Willems had been reading Calvin and Hobbes and watching the way his daughter read. He had been drawing alligators for a year and not knowing why. As he drew them, the characters came alive. The white background lets the focus fall on the characters’ expressions and feelings. It has a picture book format, but it has six and a half stories like a chapter book. “It’s a hybrid.”
Mo Willems Knows Kids Mo says he doesn’t write books….he makes them. His books are mini-graphic novels. “Comics are fun to read.”
Works Cited Flynn, Kitty. “Review of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale.” Horn Book. Sep.-Oct. 2004: pp. 576-7. Print. Flynn, Kitty. “Review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!” Horn Book. Jan.-Feb. 2004: p. 323. Print. Flynn, Kitty. “Review of Time to Pee!” Horn Book. May-June 2004: p. 75. Print. “Kids’ Q&A: Mo Willems.” Powell’s Books. Powell’s City of Books. 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://www.powells.com/kidsqa/willems.html>. “Meet Your Next Favorite Book.” Goodreads. 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://www.goodreads.com/.> “Mo Willems.” Disney. n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://disney.go.com/books/index.>
Works Cited (cont.) “Pigeon Presents.” Pigeon Presents! Starring Mo Willems’ Pigeon! Hyperion Books for Children. 2007. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.pigeonpresents.com/>. Titlewave: Library and Classroom Solutions. Follett Library Resources. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.titlewave.com/>. “A Video Interview with Mo Willems.” Reading Rockets. WETA Television. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/willems/>. Willems, Mo. “Welcome to: Mo Willemsdotcom.” Mo Willems. 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.mowillems.com/>.