Mo Willems (born February 11, 1968) is an American writer, animator, voice actor, and children's book author. His work includes creating the animated television series Sheep in the Big City for Cartoon Network, working on Sesame Street and The Off-Beats, and creating the popular children's book series Elephant and Piggie.
|Born||February 11, 1968|
Des Plaines, Illinois, U.S.
|Occupation||Author, illustrator, animator, voice actor|
|Education||New York University (BFA)|
Willems was born in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois and was raised in New Orleans, where he graduated from Trinity Episcopal School and the Isidore Newman School. He graduated cum laude from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Three of Willems' books have been awarded a Caldecott Honor, for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. The third book also won the Indies Choice Book Award for Children's Illustrated Book.
Early life edit
When Willems was about 3 years of age, he took interest in cartoon artwork, drawing and creating his own characters. Willems enjoyed writing stories about his characters to share with others. However, he was disappointed when adults would praise his work politely, as he wanted feedback on the quality of his stories. To fix this dilemma, Willems wrote comedic stories, following the notion that even polite adults would not fake a laugh. When adults laughed, Willems assumed his story was good, and if the adults only gave polite comments, Willems assumed his story needed improvement.
After graduating from Tisch, Willems spent a year traveling around the world drawing a cartoon every day, all of which have been published in the book You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons.
Returning to New York, he started his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he earned six Emmy Awards for writing during his tenure from 1993 to January 2002. The segments he wrote and animated for the show included a series of short segments featuring the recurring character Susie Kabloozie, and her pet cat, Feff. During this period he also performed stand-up comedy in NYC and recorded essays for BBC Radio along with making a promo for Cartoon Network and animating the opening for a show on Nickelodeon. He later created two animated television series: The Off-Beats for Nickelodeon and Sheep in the Big City for Cartoon Network. Sheep in the Big City was a success with the critics but ultimately failed to attract sufficient viewership and was canceled after two seasons. Willems later worked as head writer on the first four seasons of Codename: Kids Next Door, created by one of his colleagues from Sheep, Tom Warburton. He left the show to pursue his writing career.
Since 2003, Willems has authored numerous books for young children, many of which have garnered significant critical acclaim. The New York Times Book Review referred to Willems as "the biggest new talent to emerge thus far in the 00's" — and to his pigeon character as "one of this decade's contributions to the pantheon of great picture book characters." He also creates the Elephant and Piggie books, an early reader series about a friendly elephant and pig. In 2010, Willems introduced a new series of books featuring Cat the Cat, also aimed at early readers.
Willems' books have been translated into a number of languages, spawned animated shorts that have twice been awarded the Carnegie Medal (Knuffle Bunny, 2007, and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, 2010), and been developed into theatrical musical productions. His illustrations, wire sculpture, and carved ceramics have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the nation. He made several appearances on NPR's All Things Considered as the show's "radio cartoonist" in 2008.
In 2019, Willems was named the Kennedy Center's first education artist-in-residence. In 2020, the Center sponsored a series of virtual lunch doodles with Mo Willems as a way of keeping children entertained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two animated versions of his books were awarded Carnegie Medals (Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!)
Elephant & Piggie books won two Theodor Seuss Geisel Medals, for There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside?, and five Geisel Honors, for We Are in a Book!, I Broke My Trunk!, Let's Go for a Drive!, A Big Guy Took My Ball!, and Waiting Is Not Easy! His 2009 I Love My New Toy! earned him a Golden Kite Award.
Willems won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Children's Series six times for his work on Sesame Street between 1995 and 2001.
In 2020, Willems recorded an audio book, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, for which he was nominated for the Audie Award for Young Listeners. The same book had Willems on the NY Times Bestseller list for 11 weeks running.
Personal life edit
Willems has worked on a number of books on his own, as well as submitting work for other compilations.
- Pigeon series
- Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2003) — Caldecott Honor (2004), Charlotte Zolotow Commendation
- The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! (2004)
- The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! (2005)
- The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! (2005)
- Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! (2006)
- The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (2008)
- The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (2012) — Irma Black Honor (2013)
- Don't Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! (2012)
- The Pigeon Needs a Bath! (2014)
- The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! (2019)
- The Pigeon Will Ride the Rollercoaster! (2022)
- Be The Bus: The Lost & Profound Wisdom of The Pigeon (2023)
- Knuffle Bunny series
- Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct (2006)
- Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (2005) — Charlotte Zolotow Commendation
- Time to Pee! (2003)
- Time to Say "Please"! (2005)
- You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons (2006)
- Elephant & Piggie series
- Today I Will Fly! (2007)
- My Friend is Sad (2007)
- I Am Invited to a Party! (2007)
- There Is a Bird on Your Head! (2007) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal (2008)
- I Love My New Toy! (2008)
- I Will Surprise My Friend! (2008)
- Are You Ready to Play Outside? (2008) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal (2009)
- Watch Me Throw the Ball! (2009)
- Elephants Cannot Dance! (2009)
- Pigs Make Me Sneeze! (2009)
- I Am Going! (2010)
- Can I Play Too? (2010)
- We Are in a Book! (2010) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2011)
- I Broke My Trunk! (2011) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2012)
- Should I Share My Ice Cream? (2011)
- Happy Pig Day! (2011)
- Listen to My Trumpet! (2012)
- Let's Go for a Drive! (2012) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2013)
- A Big Guy Took My Ball! (2013) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2014)
- I'm a Frog! (2013)
- My New Friend Is So Fun! (2014)
- Waiting Is Not Easy! (2014) — Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2015)
- I Will Take a Nap! (2015)
- I Really Like Slop! (2015)
- The Thank You Book (2016)
- Elephant and Piggie Presents series (written by other authors)
- We Are Growing! (2016)
- The Cookie Fiasco (2016)
- The Good for Nothing Button (2017)
- It's Shoe Time! (2017)
- The Itchy Book! (2018)
- Harold & Hog Pretend for Real! (2019)
- What About Worms?! (2020)
- I'm On It! (2021)
- It's A Sign! (2022)
- Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed (2009)
- Big Frog Can't Fit In: A Pop-Out Book (2009)
- Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (2012) — Irma Black Honor (2013)
- That is NOT a Good Idea! (2013) — Irma Black Medal (2014)
- Don't Pigeonhole Me! (2013)
- Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator! (2011)
- Cat the Cat series
- Cat the Cat, Who Is That? (2010)
- Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly (2010)
- What's Your Sound, Hound the Hound? (2010)
- Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! (2010)
- City Dog, Country Frog (2010) — Charlotte Zolotow Honor
- The Story of Diva and Flea (2015), illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
- Nanette's Baguette (2016)
- Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World (2017)
- Welcome (2017)
- A Busy Creature's Day Eating (2018)
- Unlimited Squirrels series
- I Lost My Tooth! (2018)
- Who is the Mystery Reader? (2019)
- I Want to Sleep Under the Stars! (2020)
- The EVERYTHING Book! (2022)
- Because (2019), illustrated by Amber Ren
As animator edit
- The Man Who Yelled (1990)
- Ira Sleeps Over (1991) (animator)
- A Child's Garden of Verses (1992) (layout)
- Iddy Biddy Beat Boy (1993) (director)
- Cartoon Network "Closedown" (design) (1993)
- Beavis and Butt-Head (layout and design) (1993–1994)
- Sesame Street (various shorts, including Suzie Kabloozie and I'm an Octopus) (1993–1999)
- Another Bad Day for Philip Jenkins (1994)
- Going, Going, Almost Gone! Animals in Danger (1995) (animator)
- Crazy Owen (promo for Cartoon Network) (1995)
- Nickelodeon "Rhino ID" (design) (1996)
- The Off-Beats (1996–1998)
- Short Films by Short People (show open) (1997)
- An Off-Beats Valentine's (1999)
- Life (1999; 6-minute short)
- Sheep in the Big City (2000–2002)
- Codename: Kids Next Door (2002–2008)
- My Fair Lady (2003)
- LazyTown (2004) (writer)
- Codename: Kids Next Door – Operation: Z.E.R.O. (2006)
- Sit Down, Shut Up (character designer) (2009)
- Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Underground Rock Experience (2022)
- Mo Willems, "A Helluva Town(s)", Mo Willems Doodles (his official blog), February 8, 2008.
- Abby Colich, Mo Willems (Capstone Publishers, 2013), ISBN 978-1476531571, p. 6. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Susan Larson, "Local writers continue to rack up awards" Archived March 16, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Times-Picayune, January 23, 2008.
- Maria C. Montoya, "Mo Willems, author and former 'Sesame Street' writer, visits New Orleans", Times-Picayune, June 22, 2011.
- "Publishing Success is Child’s Play for Mo Willems ’86", Isidore Newman School, September 30, 2009.
- "New York Times: Weddings: Mo Willems and Cheryl Camp". The New York Times, Style Section. September 28, 1997.
- American Library Association: Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present.
- "Junior Library Guild : Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems". www.juniorlibraryguild.com. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- "Mo Willems", Authors, and Artists for Young Adults, vol. 71, Detroit: Biography in Context, 2006
- "Pigeon Presents: You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons". Archived from the original on May 4, 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2010.
- Mo Willems' biography
- Mo Willems at the Internet Movie Database
- Garner, Dwight (May 15, 2005). "New York Times Book Review: Inside the List". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
- Handy, Bruce (November 12, 2006). "New York Times Book Review: Churlish Critters". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
- "A Conversation With Mo Willems". School Library Journal. November 18, 2009.
- Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video: Past Winners
- Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video: Current Winner, 2010
- National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature: Mo Willems
- National Public Radio (NPR): Stories featuring Mo Williams
- PBS NewsHour | Children's author Mo Willems on sparking creativity and joy | Season 2019, retrieved March 23, 2020
- "What to Watch, Read and Listen To During Your Coronavirus Self-Quarantine". The New York Times. March 23, 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- "Awards and Honors - Mo Willems - Author and Illustrator". sites.google.com. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- "Awards & Honors". Mo Willems. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- American Library Association, Association for Library Service to Children: (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award Winners and Honor Books, 2006–Present.
- "SCBWI | Past Golden Kite Recipients". Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- "Announcing the Goodreads Choice Winner in Best Picture Books!". Goodreads. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- "Announcing the Goodreads Choice Winner in Best Picture Books!". Goodreads. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- León, Concepción de (June 19, 2019). "Brooklyn Book Festival Names Mo Willems 'Best of Brooklyn'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- Willems, Mo (2019). The pigeon has to go to school!. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group. ISBN 978-1-368-04645-9. OCLC 1052902462.
- "Children's Picture Books - Best Sellers - Sept. 29, 2019 - The New York Times". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- "Mo Willems: Northampton - Children's Book Council". The Children's Book Council. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
- "Charlotte Zolotow Award Books". CCBC. University of Wisconsin - Madison. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
- "Past Winners (Irma Black Award)". www.bankstreet.edu. Bank Street College of Education. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
- Graeber, Laurel (June 29, 2022). "Naked No More: A TV Rodent Teaches Families About Tolerance". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 10, 2022.