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Whether it’s a Sesame Street sketch or a song in gibberish,
award-winning author and illustrator Mo Willems has an uncanny
ability to tickle a child’s funnybone.
Illustrations by Mo Willems
Text by Elizabeth Bentley
According to award-winning illustrator and author Mo Willems, there’s a lot of storytelling juice in ears.
His bestselling book character, and now star of the hit musical Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical started life as Knuffle Bear. Sadly, Bear just couldn’t handle the range of emotions required of an inanimate stuffed toy. By adding long ears, Knuffle came alive – able to look surprised, sad, or even ashamed.
It’s Willems’ unique way of expressing ideas that has made him a favourite with children and parents alike. Not to mention the critics. Willems’ shelves now groan under the weight of three Caldecott Honors, two Theodor Seuss Geisel Medals, two Carnegie Medals, six Emmys and a Geisel Honor.
Willems earned his kid-lit stripes as a writer and animator on the legendary educational TV show, Sesame Street. There, he says he learned two things: how to write for children and that he liked doing it.
“You have no cultural modifiers. Your audience, these people, have not been around long enough to know who the Beatles are, or what the Arc de Triomphe is, or the difference between a Cadillac and a Subaru,” he told local Massachusetts television in a recent interview. “You have to write about jealousy, love, hatred, laundromats – really, the basic core emotions.”
He began writing children’s books in 2003, with the New York Times bestselling Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Since then, he’s produced a small library of comic picture books, including the Elephant & Piggie early reader series; Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct; and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.
Today, Willems has swapped the urban dash of Brooklyn, New York for the sleepy charms of small town Massachusetts, where he lives with his family and gets to walk his daughter to school.
Visit Mo Willems’ website