Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I love Mo Willems books but...

I have loved Mo Willems since Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! first hit bookstores. I was thrilled when Knuffle Bunny won the Caldecott Award and have enjoyed the further adventures of pigeon. So, when I heard that Mo Willems was speaking at a Seattle conference that I was attending, I rushed to his website to check out a bit of background info. It was all I expected and more. I was so excited. Sadly, I found Willems to be a bit of a lazy presenter, relying on his quirky, off-the-cuff humor and general charm. It was a bit disappointing coming from someone with such obvious talent.

Still, I remain a fan of Willems picture books as well as his early readers like I am Invited to a Party from the Elephant & Piggie series. Willems uses a minimum number of words along with priceless illustrations to maximum effect. His simple line-drawn animal characters are perfectly imbued with facial expressions and body language that children easily identify with. Like other Willems' stories, I am invited to a Party! has that perfect story arc that kids find universally appealing. The tension in the story develops as a result of the familiar personality types that kids will recognize and appreciate. It's classic, and yet not. Willems success lies in his ability to bring an appealing freshness & quirky sensibility to the familiar. In fact, I've yet to read a Willems book that I didn't like. Still, I think I'll stick to enjoying his books and leave public appearances for other conference attendees.

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