TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Author Profile: Mo Willems

“Always think of your audience, never think for your audience.”

This week, we’re featuring an author who has been called a master of children’s literature: the brilliant, award-winning Mo Willems. Since receiving a Caldecott Medal Honor in 2004 for his now-classic picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Willems has written and illustrated over 40 books for children. 


His books are deceptively simple, as if any parent could have made them, but there is more than meets the eye behind the illustrations that Willems uses. They express the story clearly and allow the reader to focus more closely on the text. Instead of imitating life, he uses his illustrations to help create joy and magic in his stories.
Although his books appear to be written for a very young reader, he has said that he doesn’t write for a certain age because he wants to have as large an audience as possible. His clever humor and the way he writes about emotions like jealousy, sadness and joy make it easy for readers of any age to connect to his books, and parents especially will be able to relate. The tactics that the sly Pigeon uses to try to convince the reader to let him drive the bus, stay up late or get a puppy are strikingly familiar to anyone who has tried to bargain with a child.
The work of Willems could easily become a theme for a Read-Aloud. While his most famous picture book characters are Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny, he also created an extensive series of early readers focused around the relationship between Elephant and Piggie. These books can spark discussions about different situations and can help children learn to be more empathetic. There are also a number of craft and activity ideas to go along with these books that could be used at a Read-Aloud. 

At a recent Read-Aloud, a WMATA bus driver read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! to the children. The Pigeon books lend themselves to interaction, as the Pigeon speaks directly to the reader and asks to drive the bus. He tries to persuade the reader by saying he'll be their best friend or even give them five dollars if they let him drive the bus. The kids love to shout out “NOOOO!” when asked if they would let the Pigeon drive the bus!

Regardless of age, any reader will enjoy the vast array books by Mo Willems.

This post was written by The Reading Connection's intern Margaret Fogarty.

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