Tag Archives: Mo Willems

Getting to Know a Picture Book Character

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

When you think of children’s books that are written as a series of 2, 3, 4, or more books with the same characters in different stories you may think of chapter books for independent readers. Maybe you know some of these series for young readers such as “Junie B. Jones,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “The Magic Tree House,” to name just a very few of so many that are popular.

But picture books also have character series that can hook the pre-reader. Getting to know the same characters in a series is like making new friends. As you see the characters develop relationships, face challenges, and solve problems, the young listener can relate to those events in their own life.

Try out some of these series and see what grabs the attention of your young child:

“Little Pig,” written and illustrated by David Hyde Costello. In 2 books (so far) this young pig faces the challenges of being the smallest and youngest in his family. In each story he wants to join in the activities that his older brothers and sisters are having but isn’t allowed. Without any fuss, this tenacious and creative little pig finds his own way of having fun.

“Frog and Toad,” written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Each of these 5 books is a collection of 5 short stories about two friends who have opposite personalities. The stories are about quiet times in every day life such as making a list of things to do, cleaning the house, and baking cookies in the context of what it means to be a friend.

“Good Dog Carl” written and illustrated by Alexandra Day. In over 15 mostly wordless stories, Carl the Rottweiler looks after a baby girl who gets into all kinds of predicaments. Young children will see the humor in the ongoing dilemmas.

“Elephant and Piggie” written and illustrated by Mo Willems. In a 6 book series that is growing, we see that these two best friends have very different personalities. Gerald the elephant is careful, solemn, a worrier. Piggie is happy-go-lucky, smiles, and tries anything. Every child will be able to relate to some qualities in these two characters.

“The Princess in Black” by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. In this 4 book series we are introduced to a young girl who looks like any normal princess until she is needed to save the day and changes into a superhero.

“Flat Stanley,” by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. This series of 6 books started with the original Flat Stanley book over 50 years ago. A boy named Stanley Lambchop is accidentally flattened to be just one half inch thick when a bulletin board falls on him in the night. Being that flat, Stanley can be mailed, rolled up, flown in the sky like a kite and becomes an unlikely hero by catching two art thieves.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under book series, children's books, Series

The Story of Mo Willems

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Did you ever know a kid in school who was always doodling during class? The margins of their papers filled up each day with patterns, wandering lines, and zany characters.

Now-famous children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems, started out just that way. Doodling and drawing cartoons in school and at home in New Orleans, Willems was one of those kids who couldn’t stop creating and loved using his imagination. He drew, wrote stories, acted and even directed plays in his elementary and high school days and then as an adult tried his hand at stand up comedy.

After moving to New York City, Willems went on to create animation and write for children’s television, including Nickelodeon, and won Emmy awards for Sesame Street pieces. He eventually made his break into the children’s book world in 2003 with his book, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” From there Willems has been busily creating books for children and accumulating multiple honors and awards including the Caldecott Medal for illustration, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal for beginning readers books, and Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s videos of his stories.

Willems’ style of illustration reflects his long history of cartooning. His characters are simple drawings in black line. Emotions are shown exaggerated in facial expressions and body language. Backgrounds are one or two flat colors or actual photographs. He has more than 50 published children’s books, many of which are parts of a series of stories incorporating kid-generated predicaments and humorous scenarios.

The “Knuffle Bunny” series stars a young girl named Trixie (like his own daughter) in a big city dragging around her stuffed bunny, who suffers some unfortunate mishaps in each book.

The Pigeon series features a whiny pigeon acting very much like a preschooler. He pleads, gets worried, is demanding, dramatic, and thankful too. Pigeon speaks directly to the reader of the book in each story, asking for help in getting what he wants. In this way the reader/listener is also part of the story.

Elephant and Piggie books are especially for children learning to read independently,with reading strategies embedded into the story. Each book has many “sight” words, that is, words that are used in literature frequently that children can learn just by seeing them over and over. There are a limited number of different words in each book and those words are easily decoded using phonics, or “sounding out.” The illustrations give clues to help children figure out hard words, so can be used as an additional strategy to help understand the story.

Now a stay-home dad and full-time author/illustrator, Willems lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife Cher and teen aged daughter Trixie. His newest series, “Cat the Cat,” made its appearance in 2010. To the delight of his young fans, Willems is still creating and publishing children’s books and has posted many videos of his stories, riding the wave of his past 15 years of success.

Leave a comment

Filed under author spotlight, Early Readers, Mo Willems