November 25, 2008

Author Spotlight: MO WILLEMS

I’ve been a big Mo Willems fan since well before I ever heard his name.

Watching “Sesame Street” in the late 90s with my son, we’d laugh at the “Suzy Kabloozy” cartoons, so hilariously voiced by Ruth Buzzi. Willems (Suzy’s creator) was a writer on the program at the time—an Emmy-award-winning writer. He went on to create still more TV cartoons before leaving the field to pursue his career as an author.

This year, Mo Willems won another honor: the American Library Association’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for “most distinguished American book for beginning readers.” The medal honors “There is a Bird on Your Head,” a new entry in Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie” series, a hilarious line about two very good friends.

The Elephant & Piggie stories are indeed great beginning reader books, as they contain simple, large text, repeated ideas, and very appealing cartoony illustrations. The books are also fun read-alouds, giving parents and teachers the opportunity have a great time giving voice to these two silly characters! What’s more, free teachers’ guides are available online, with discussion questions, extension ideas & activity sheets, at

I hope you already know that pigeon from that URL—he’s the star of the Caldecott Honor-winning book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” the first of a growing number of comic Pigeon adventures, and certainly another home & classroom must-read! Read the books together, create voices, and let the children talk back to the books—they’ll love it.

While you’re looking up Mo Willems’ books at your library, don’t forget to pick up the “Knuffle Bunny” books, “Leonardo the Terrible Monster,” “Time to Say ‘Please,’” and whatever else you can find. You’ll have as much fun reading them as the kids will have listening—and that’s why I present them here. Happy Reading!

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