Mo Willems

Last updated
Mo Willems
Mo Willems Mazza Fall Conference 2012.jpg
Willems at the Mazza Museum Fall 2012 Conference
Born (1968-02-11) February 11, 1968 (age 51)
Des Plaines, Illinois, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, Illustrator, Animator, Voice actor
Residence Massachusetts, U.S.
Education New York University (BFA)
Cheryl Camp(m. 1997)

Mo Willems (born February 11, 1968) is an American writer, animator, voice actor, and creator of children's books.


Early life

Willems was born in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois [1] [2] and was raised in New Orleans, where he graduated from Trinity Episcopal School [3] and the Isidore Newman School. [4] [5] He graduated cum laude [6] from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He married Cheryl Camp in Brooklyn, New York, in 1997. [6] Willems now resides with his family in Northampton, Massachusetts.[ citation needed ]

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago) is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,705,994 (2018), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States.

Des Plaines, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Des Plaines is a city in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Its population was 58,364 at the 2010 census. The city is a suburb of Chicago and is located just north of O'Hare International Airport. It is situated on and is named after the Des Plaines River, which runs through the city just east of its downtown area.

Isidore Newman School

Isidore Newman School is a private, nondenominational, co-educational college preparatory school located on an 11-acre (45,000 m2) campus in the uptown section of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Willems first became interested in cartoon art when he was just a child. When he was 3 or 4 he started to draw and create his own characters. Willems enjoyed writing stories about his characters to share with others. However, he was disappointed when adults would praise his work out of politeness. To fix this dilemma Willems started writing funny stories. He knew that even polite adults could not fake a laugh. So when the adults laughed he knew his story was good and if the adults still gave polite comments then he knew his story was bad. [7]


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. [8]

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. [9] The following segments he wrote and animated for the show including 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's KaBlam!, and Sheep in the Big City for Cartoon Network. [10] 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 , [10] created by one of his colleagues from Sheep, Tom Warburton. He left the show to pursue his writing career.

<i>Sesame Street</i> American childrens television program

Sesame Street is an American educational children's television series that combines live action, sketch comedy, animation and puppetry. It is produced by Sesame Workshop and was created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett. The program is known for its images communicated through the use of Jim Henson's Muppets, and includes short films, with humor and cultural references. The series premiered on November 10, 1969, to positive reviews, some controversy, and high viewership; it has aired on the U.S.'s national public television provider PBS since its debut, with its first run moving to premium channel HBO on January 16, 2016.

BBC Radio division and service of the British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC Radio is an operational business division and service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The service provides national radio stations covering the majority of musical genres, as well as local radio stations covering local news, affairs and interests. It also oversees online audio content.

Cartoon Network American pay television channel

Cartoon Network is an American pay television channel owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment, a division of AT&T's WarnerMedia. The channel was launched on October 1, 1992, and primarily broadcasts animated television series, mostly children's programming, ranging from action to animated comedy. It operates usually from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM (ET/PT) and is targeted at children in between 7-15. Its overnight daypart block Adult Swim is aimed at adults and is treated as a separate entity for promotional purposes and as a separate channel by Nielsen for ratings purposes. A Spanish language audio track for select programs is accessible via second audio programing (SAP); some cable and satellite companies offer the Spanish feed as a separate channel by removing the main English-language audio track.

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" [11] — and to his pigeon character as "one of this decade's contributions to the pantheon of great picture book characters." [12]

<i>The New York Times Book Review</i> Weekly review of books by the New York Times

The New York Times Book Review (NYTBR) is a weekly paper-magazine supplement to The New York Times in which current non-fiction and fiction books are reviewed. It is one of the most influential and widely read book review publications in the industry. The offices are located near Times Square in New York City.

Three of Willems' books have been awarded a Caldecott Honor: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2004), Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (2005), and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity (2008). [13] Recently he has been creating the Elephant and Piggie books, an early reader series about a friendly elephant and pig. Elephant and Piggie books won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal in 2008 and 2009, and Geisel Honors in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. [14] In 2010, Willems introduced a new series of books featuring Cat the Cat , also aimed at early readers. [15]

<i>Dont Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!</i> book by Mo Willems

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is a children's picture book by Mo Willems. Released by Disney-Hyperion in 2003, it was Willems' first book for children, and received the Caldecott Honor. The plot is about a bus driver who has to leave so he asks the reader to not allow the pigeon to drive the bus. The pigeon tries many excuses and tries to finagle readers into letting it drive the bus. An animated adaptation of the book won the 2010 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video.

Elephant and Piggie is a book series for early readers by Mo Willems. The series, which debuted in 2007 with two books, is done in a comic book style, and features two friends: an elephant, Gerald, and a pig, Piggie. The books are written in conversational style with Piggie's words appearing in pink letter bubbles and Gerald's appearing in grey letter bubbles. The books often address issues of friendship. Books are added to the series on a roughly quarterly schedule, with two books occasionally released on the same day. There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside? won the Geisel Medal in 2008 and 2009. Two books in the series have been listed on Time magazine's Top 10 Children's Books of the Year: Today I Will Fly! and Elephants Cannot Dance!.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is a literary award by the American Library Association (ALA) that annually recognizes the "author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year." The winner(s) receive a bronze medal at the ALA Annual Conference, presented by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) division of ALA.

He made several appearances on NPR's All Things Considered as the show's "radio cartoonist" in 2008. [16]

Willems' books have been translated into a number of languages, spawned animated shorts that have twice been awarded the Carnegie Medal (Knuffle Bunny, 2007, [17] and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, 2010 [18] ), and been developed into theatrical musical productions. His illustrations, wire sculpture, and carved ceramics have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the nation. [19]

Personal life

Mo Willems currently resides in Massachusetts with his wife, Cher, and his daughter, Trixie. In 2003, Willems left his career in television and became a stay-at-home father for his daughter. In an interview with Sherry Joe Crosby of the Los Angeles Daily News , Willems shared that there were two reasons for making this decision. Willems explained:

One is selfish and the other is kind of selfish. The very selfish reason is if I wrote books I would be able to work at home. I have a young child and I love the idea of having lunch with my family every day. I wanted to be back in the business where I could work at home. The other kind of selfish reason is that I had more freedom in writing books than I had in writing for television. [20]

In another interview, with Samantha Critchell of The Springfield News, he stated, "Trixie is funny. My books aren't quite as good as her jokes." The protagonist of Willems' famous story Knuffle Bunny is named after his daughter Trixie. Willems is well known for being a family man. [7]


Willems has worked on a number of books on his own, as well as submitting work for other compilations.

As author

As animator

Related Research Articles

Dr. Seuss American childrens writer and illustrator

Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American children's author, political cartoonist, illustrator, poet, animator, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He is known for his work writing and illustrating more than 60 books under the pen name Doctor Seuss. His work includes many of the most popular children's books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death.

<i>The Cat in the Hat</i> Childrens book by Dr. Seuss

The Cat in the Hat is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and first published in 1957. The story centers on a tall anthropomorphic cat, who wears a red and white-striped hat and a red bow tie. The Cat shows up at the house of Sally and her brother one rainy day when their mother is away. Despite the repeated objections of the children's fish, the Cat shows the children a few of his tricks in an attempt to entertain them. In the process he and his companions, Thing One and Thing Two, wreck the house. The children and the fish become more and more alarmed until the Cat produces a machine that he uses to clean everything up and disappears just before the children's mother comes home.

Picture book book with images at least as important as words, commonly directed at children and featuring a story

A picture book combines visual and verbal narratives in a book format, most often aimed at young children. The images in picture books use a range of media such as oil paints, acrylics, watercolor, and pencil, among others. Two of the earliest books with something like the format picture books still retain now were Heinrich Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter from 1845 and Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit from 1902. Some of the best-known picture books are Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings, Dr. Seuss' The Cat In The Hat, and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. The Caldecott Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal are awarded annually for illustrations in children's literature. From the mid-1960s several children's literature awards include a category for picture books.

Philip Dey "Phil" Eastman was an American screenwriter, children's author, and illustrator. As an author, he is known primarily as P. D. Eastman.

<i>Horton Hatches the Egg</i> book

Horton Hatches the Egg is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and published in 1940 by Random House. The book tells the story of Horton the Elephant, who is tricked into sitting on a bird's egg while its mother, Mayzie, takes a permanent vacation to Palm Beach. Horton endures a number of hardships but persists, often stating, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!" Ultimately, the egg hatches, revealing an elephant-bird, a creature with a blend of Mayzie's and Horton's features.

Kevin Henkes American childrens illustrator and writer

Kevin Henkes is an American writer and illustrator of children's books. As an illustrator he won the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon (2004). Two of his books were Newbery Medal Honor Books, Olive's Ocean in 2004 and The Year of Billy Miller in 2014. His picture book Waiting was named both a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and a Geisel Honor Book. It was only the second time any author has won that combination of awards.

<i>Knuffle Bunny</i> book by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (kuh-nuffle) is a children's picture book by Mo Willems. Released by Hyperion Books in 2004, Knuffle Bunny won the 2005 Caldecott Honor. The story spawned an animated short and a musical, as well as two sequels. Altogether, the Knuffle Bunny Series has sold more than 750,000 copies. The series' protagonist, Trixie, is named after Willems' real-life daughter.

The Charlotte Zolotow Award is an American literary award presented annually for outstanding writing in a picture book published in the United States during the preceding year. By contrast, the Caldecott Medal is for outstanding illustration in a picture book. The Zolotow award was established in 1998 by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education and named to honor the work of Charlotte Zolotow, an American children's book editor and author. Ms. Zolotow worked with Harper Junior Books for 38 years during which time she wrote more than 70 picture books. Zolotow attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a writing scholarship from 1933-36. The Cooperative Children's Book Center is a children's literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison.

<i>Knuffle Bunny Too</i> book by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity is a children's picture book by Mo Willems. A sequel to Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, it was released on September 4, 2007 and reached the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller List for children's books.

<i>Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didnt Know She Was Extinct</i> book by Mo Willems

Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct is a children's picture book by Mo Willems. It was released in 2006 by Hyperion Books.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger American childrens illustrator and writer

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is an American author and artist of children's books, for which she has often appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List and won the Caldecott Honor twice, the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book, the Empire State Award for "Body of Work and Contribution to Children’s Literature", the Massachusetts Reading Association Award for "Body of Work and Contribution to Children's Literature", and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor twice.

Elisha Cooper is an American writer and children's book author. Cooper went to Foote School and Hopkins School in Connecticut. After graduating from Yale, he worked for The New Yorker as a messenger. In 2016 he was a Maurice Sendak Fellow, a residency program for illustrators.

Weston Woods Studios

Weston Woods Studios is a production company that makes audio and short films based on well-known books for children. It was founded in 1953 by Morton Schindel in Weston, Connecticut, and named after the wooded area near his home. The company's first project was Andy and the Lion in 1954, and its first animated film was The Snowy Day in 1963. Starting in 1968, Weston Woods began a long collaboration with animator Gene Deitch and opened international offices in Henley-on-Thames, England, UK, in 1972; Canada in 1975; and Australia in 1977. In addition to making the films, the company also conducted interviews with the writers, illustrators, and makers of the films. The films appeared on children's television programs such as Captain Kangaroo and Eureeka's Castle. In the mid-1980s, the films were released on VHS under the Children's Circle titles, and Wood Knapp Video distributed these releases from 1988 to 1995.

Cat the Cat is a book series for very early readers by award-winning children's author and illustrator, Mo Willems. The series debuted in February 2010 with the publication of two books, with additional books slated to follow soon thereafter.

<i>Knuffle Bunny Free</i> book by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is a children's picture book by author and illustrator Mo Willems. It was released on September 28, 2010 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins. It is the third and final book in Willem's Knuffle Bunny series, which also includes Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. It debuted at the number one spot on The New York Times Best Seller list. named the book one of its Top 10 Children's Picture Books of 2010. Willems was a finalist for Illustrator of the Year during 2011's Children's Book Week, sponsored by the Children's Book Council of the United States because of his efforts in illustrating this book.

Jon Klassen Canadian-born writer and illustrator

Jon Klassen is a Canadian writer and illustrator of children's books and an animator. He won both the American Caldecott Medal and the British Kate Greenaway Medal for children's book illustration, recognizing the 2012 picture book This Is Not My Hat, which he also wrote. He is the first person to win both awards for the same work.

Let's Go for a Drive! is a book by Mo Willems, published in 2012. It is a book in the Elephant and Piggie series.

<i>The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?</i> book by Mo Willems

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? is a 2012 picture book by Mo Willems. It is about a duckling that asks for, and receives, a cookie, a pigeon that complains about it, but is then flummoxed when the duckling passes the cookie to him.


  1. Mo Willems, "A Helluva Town(s)", Mo Willems Doodles (his official blog), February 8, 2008.
  2. Abby Colich, Mo Willems (Capstone Publishers, 2013), ISBN   978-1476531571, p. 6. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  3. Susan Larson, "Local writers continue to rack up awards", Times-Picayune , January 23, 2008.
  4. Maria C. Montoya, "Mo Willems, author and former 'Sesame Street' writer, visits New Orleans", Times-Picayune , June 22, 2011.
  5. "Publishing Success is Child’s Play for Mo Willems ’86", Isidore Newman School, September 30, 2009.
  6. 1 2 "New York Times: Weddings: Mo Willems and Cheryl Camp". The New York Times, Style Section. September 28, 1997.
  7. 1 2 "Mo Willems", Authors and Artists for Young Adults, 71, Detroit: Biography in Context, 2006
  8. Pigeon Presents: You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons
  9. Mo Willems' biography
  10. 1 2 Mo Willems at the Internet Movie Database
  11. Garner, Dwight (May 15, 2005). "New York Times Book Review: Inside the List". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  12. Handy, Bruce (November 12, 2006). "New York Times Book Review: Churlish Critters". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  13. 1 2 3 4 American Library Association: Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 American Library Association, Association for Library Service to Children: (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award Winners and Honor Books, 2006–Present.
  15. "A Conversation With Mo Willems". School Library Journal. November 18, 2009.
  16. National Public Radio (NPR): Stories featuring Mo Williams
  17. Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video: Past Winners
  18. Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video: Current Winner, 2010
  19. National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature: Mo Willems
  20. Sherry Joe Corsby, Los Angeles Daily News, [date needed]
  21. 1 2 3 4 "Charlotte Zolotow Award Books". CCBC. University of Wisconsin - Madison. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  22. 1 2 3 "Past Winners (Irma Black Award)". Bank Street College of Education. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  23. "Mo Willems Stuff-I Will Take a Nap". . Retrieved May 24, 2016.External link in |website= (help)
  24. "Mo Willems Stuff-I Really Like Slop". . Retrieved May 24, 2016.External link in |website= (help)
  25. "Mo Willems Stuff-The Thank You Book". Mo Willems Stuff. Retrieved May 24, 2016.