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Willems, Mo

Willems, Mo

Personal

Married; children: Trixie. Education: New York University, B.F.A.

Addresses

Home—Brooklyn, NY.

Career

Animator and illustrator. Children's Television Workshop, New York, NY, researcher, then script writer and animator for Sesame Street television series, 1994-2002; Nickelodeon, creator and director of animated series The Off-Beats, 1995-98; Cartoon Network, creator and director of animated series Sheep in the Big City, 2000-02, head writer of animated series Codename: Kids Next Door, 2002-03. Short films have appeared on MTV, HBO, IFC, Tournee of Animation, and Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation. Commentator for British Broadcasting Corporation's BBC Radio, 1994-97. Former member of Monkeysuit (comix collective), New York, NY.

Awards, Honors

ASIFA-East Awards for animation; six Emmy awards for work on Sesame Street; National Parenting Publications Award, 2003, for Time to Pee!; Caldecott Honor Book citation, American Library Association, 2004, for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, and 2005, for Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale; Book Sense Book of the Year Children's Illustrated Honor Book designation, American Booksellers Association, 2006, for Leonardo, the Terrible Monster.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

Time to Pee!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.

The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.

Time to Say "Please"!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons: The World on One Cartoon a Day, foreword by Dave Barry, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Today I Will Fly!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.

My Friend Is Sad, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Monkeysuit, Monkeysuit Press; Cartoon Cartoons, DC Comics; and 9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember, DC Comics, 2002.

Adaptations

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! was adapted for the stage by Adam Bampton-Smith and produced by Big Wooden Horse Productions, 2005.

Sidelights

Mo Willems, an Emmy Award-winning television writer and animator, has also gained new fans through his work as an award-winning children's book author. A former writer and animator for the popular Sesame Street television program, Willems has also created more than one hundred short films, many of which have appeared on MTV, HBO, the Tournee of Animation, and Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation. The creator of the animated television series Sheep in the Big City and The Off-Beats, he also served as head writer for the Cartoon Network's Codename: Kids Next Door series. Since semi-retiring from television in 2003, Willems has channeled his creativity and quirky humor into picture books such as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct. In Willems' books, while his characters sometimes make missteps, they ultimately join readers in a goodhearted laugh at their own foibles. As the author/illustrator told Susan Spencer Cramer in an interview for Publishers Weekly, "‘Failure is pervasive in children's lives, but I don't know when it stopped being funny. It needs to be explored and enjoyed and laughed at and understood."

Willems' interest in cartooning began as a child. "I've been drawing funny cartoons my whole life," he noted on his home page. "I started out by drawing Snoopy and Charlie Brown and then started to make up my own characters. Luckily, no one has made me stop yet!" Willems decided on a career in animation during the 1980s, while a student at New York University. "My desire as a kid was to find a way to be funny and draw," he recalled to Martin Goodman in an interview for Animation World. "Animation turned out to be the best way for me to do that."

Willems made his first film, The Man Who Yelled, while still a student at New York University, and this was followed by the acclaimed short film Iddy Biddy Beat Boy. His job in the research department at the Children's

Television Workshop eventually found him working as an animator for Sesame Street. As Willems told Goodman, this opportunity was a "great fit because the kind of films I wanted to make were very close to the kind of films they wanted to air. I really felt that I was making personal work, even though I was teaching the ‘letter of the day’ or something like that." During Willems' time with Sesame Street, he garnered six Emmy Awards for his animation work.

In 1995 Willems began producing The Off-Beats, a series of animated shorts about Betty-Anne Bongo and her unusual friends, for Nickelodeon. The success of that series led to Sheep in the Big City, which debuted on the Cartoon Network in 2000. Variety reviewer Stuart Levine described Sheep in the Big City as "an amusing tale of a shy but determined woolly creature on the lam … after government bad guys try to kidnap and use him as a critical component of a high-powered weapon." After the series was canceled in 2002, Willems began writing for Codename: Kids Next Door, which finds five ten year olds battling the forces of adulthood. In 2003 Codename: Kids Next Door became the highest-rated show on the Cartoon Network. That same year, Willems made the decision to leave television and become a stay-at-home father for his daughter, Trixie. He also embarked on his picture-book career.

Published in 2003, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! jump-started Willems' authorial career and also began his series of picture books featuring a wily, cantankerous pigeon character. "The premise of this cheeky debut is charmingly absurd," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly. A bus driver steps out of his vehicle for a short break, asking that the reader keep an eye on things while he is gone. Before he leaves, the driver makes one special request: "Don't let the pigeon drive the bus." A big-eyed pigeon soon appears and tries to negotiate a spot behind the wheel, at various points telling the reader, "I'll be your best friend" and "I'll bet your mom would let me." Finally the pigeon throws a huge but futile tantrum as the driver returns, thanks the reader, and pulls away. The pigeon's disappointment is only temporary, though, as he spots a tractor-trailer coming up the road. "Willems hooks his audience quickly with the pigeon-to-reader approach and minimalist cartoons," noted the Publishers Weekly critic. Gillian Engberg, reviewing Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! for School Library Journal, remarked that "each page has the feel of a perfectly frozen frame of cartoon footage—action, remarkable expression, and wild humor captured with just a few lines."

Willems' wingéd hero makes a return appearance in The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!, The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!, and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! In The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! Willems' plucky fowl spies a discarded hot dog and swoops in for a meal. Just as he is about to devour the treat, a tiny duckling scoots in and makes a number of seemingly innocent but calculated inquiries about the hot dog. According to Kitty Flynn in Horn Book, "the hot-headed pigeon humorously wrestles with a minor moral dilemma (to share or not to share) that will immediately resonate" with young readers. Though the pigeon is wise to the duckling's game, the incessant questions wear down his resistance, and the pair end up sharing the snack. Willems' "deceptively simple cartoon drawings convincingly portray his protagonist's emotional dilemma," Robin L. Gibson observed in School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found that Willems' design work adds much to the tale, stating that the cartoonist's use of "voice bubbles, body language, and expressive sizes and shapes of type … crafts a comical give-and-take between the characters."

In the board books The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! and The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!, the cantankerous fowl's adventures are geared for younger readers. In the first title, the Bus Driver tries to get the pigeon to be happy, but that is a difficult task. In the second title, the pigeon explores all the various modes of transportation, finding that he likes all of them. Julie Roach, writing in the School Library Journal, found that "pigeon's fans will be excited to see this wacky bird and his friends again." In Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late! the reader is told to make sure that the pesky bird goes to bed early. However, in childlike fashion, the pigeon comes up with page after page of reasons why he does not need to go to bed. First he needs to watch a bird documentary on television, then he needs a drink of water. And, besides, he whines, "I'm not even tired." As a Kirkus Reviews critic noted, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late showcases Willems' "wholehearted sense of fun."

In addition to his books about ducks, Willems has also written several standalone books for young readers, among them Time to Pee!, Knuffle Bunny, and Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct. "More pep rally than how-to," Time to Pee! "is perfectly attuned to preschoolers' sensibilities and funny bones," in the opinion of Horn Book contributor Kitty Flynn. Featuring a band of cheerful mice who give advice and encouragement to youngsters undergoing potty training, the book showcases Willems' "genius for spare but expressive lines and an almost uncanny rapport with the preschool audience," according to Booklist reviewer Jennifer Matson. The mouse clan returns in Time to Say "Please!", a primer of basic manners that a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised as "an entirely kid-centered lesson" that will earn repeated readings at storytime. Calling the book "a painless introduction to good manners," Wendy Lukehart added that Time to Say "Please!" should be influential because Willems' "examples speak directly to a young child's experience."

A toddler loses her prized possession in Knuffle Bunny, a story Flynn predicted "will immediately register with even pre-verbal listeners." In Willems' quaint tale, little Trixie and her dad take a trip to the local Laundromat, but on the way home the girl realizes that her beloved stuffed bunny has been left behind. When the toddler's frantic attempts to communicate are misinterpreted by her clueless father, Trixie adopts a new strategy: she cries. Only after the pair arrive home and Trixie's mom noted the absence of the beloved toy does Dad realize his mistake. In a review of Knuffle Bunny a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed Willems "a master of body language," and Flynn praised the book's "playful illustrations," which feature cartoon characters "rendered in Willems's expressive retro style" and set against sepia-toned photographs of Brooklyn neighborhoods. The author/illustrator's "economical storytelling and deft skill with line lend the book its distinctive charm," wrote a contributor in Publishers Weekly.

Keying in to children's love of dinosaurs, Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct introduces a friendly neighborhood resident who just happens to be a dinosaur. Edwina is kind to everyone, even baking cookies for the local children, until know-it-all neighbor Reginald informs the oversized reptile that she is, in fact, extinct. Describing the sweet-tempered Edwina as "a masterful creation," a Kirkus Reviews writer praised Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct as "a tribute to the child's rock-solid faith in how the world should be." Monsters also have perennial child appeal, and in Leonardo, the Terrible Monster Willems casts a decidedly non-scary member of the Monster clan in what a Kirkus Reviews writer called "a sweetly original morality play" about friendship and differences. Calling the tale a "perfectly paced story," School Library Journal contributor Marianne Saccardi noted that it perfectly pairs with Willems' pastel-toned cartoon art, and in a Booklist review Ilene Cooper praised the book's "smart, striking design."

In Willems' picture-book career, he has reproduced many of the successes of his work in television. After only a few years, he earned some of the field's top awards, including two prestigious Caldecott Honor Book citations in recognition of his illustrations. In reviewing his books, critics often make note of the author/

illustrator's minimalist graphic style, a fact that pleases the former animator. As Willems told Goodman, "while I enjoy all forms of drawing, a single line, simply done, is more beautiful than a hundred little lines sort of approximating the same thing. I like my characters to be two-dimensional. Just because you can so something in 3-D doesn't make it better. I want my line to be focused, so the emotions of a character are clear."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Willems, Mo, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

Willems, Mo, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

PERIODICALS

Animation World, September, 1997, Arlene Sherman and Abby Terkuhle, interview with Willems; June 25, 2001, Martin Goodman, "Talking in His Sheep: A Conversation with Mo Willems."

Booklist, September 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 123; November 1, 2003, Jennifer Matson, review of Time to Pee!, p. 499; January 1, 2004, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p 782; February 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 1064; September 15, 2004, Jennifer Matson, review of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, p. 241; June 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 1819; July, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. 1931; February 15, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, p. 106; July 1, 2006, Jesse Karp, review of You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons: The World on One Cartoon a Day, p. 47; September 1, 2006, Randall Enos, review of Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, p. 142.

Bookseller, April 16, 2004, Sonia Benster, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 31; April 7, 2006, Katie Hawthorne, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 13.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2004, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 103; November, 2005, Karen Coats, review of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, p. 127; May, 2006, Karen Coats, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!, p. 429; October, 2006, Karen Coats, review of Edwina, the Dinosaurs Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, p. 101.

CBC Magazine, May, 2005, Mo Willems, "How to Become Rich and Famous in One Easy Step (and Other Stuff That Has Nothing to Do with Making Kids' Books)."

Charlotte Observer, April 4, 2006, "Four Questions for Mo Willems."

Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), June 18, 2005, Sherry Joe Crosby, "Author Mo Willems Lets His Imagination Take Wing," p. U7.

Entertainment Weekly, October 3, 2003, review of Time to Pee!, p. 74.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 14, 2003, Susan Perren, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. D15; July 17, 2004, Susan Perren, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. D11; October 23, 2004, Susan Perren, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. D22; June 18, 2005, Susan Perren, review of Time to Say "Please"!, p. D11; December 31, 2005, Susan Perren, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. D13.

Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Kitty Flynn, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 449; January-February, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of Time to Pee!, p. 75; May-June, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 323; September-October, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of Knuffle Bunny, pp. 576-577; January-February, 2005, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 14; July-August, 2005, Kitty Flynn, review of Time to Say "Please"!, p. 462; September-October, 2005, Kitty Flynn, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. 569; May-June, 2006, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!, p. 308; September-October, 2006, Danielle J. Ford, review of Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, p. 572.

Instructor, April, 2004, Judy Freeman, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 65.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 542; October 1, 2003, review of Time to Pee!, p. 1233; April 1, 2004, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 339; August 1, 2004, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 750; May 15, 2005, review of Time to Say "Please"!, p. 597; June 1, 2005, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. S22; July 15, 2005, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. 797; March 1, 2006, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, p. 242; August 1, 2006, review of Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, p. 799.

News-Leader (Springfield, MO), July 27, 2005, Samantha Critchell, "Author Quits Day Job to Write Kids' Books."

New York Times, April 16, 2000, Peter Marks, "Now Mom and Dad Are Going Cartoon-Crazy, Too."

New York Times Book Review, May 16, 2004, Claire Dederer, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 184; December 15, 2003, review of Time to Pee!, p. 71; April 5, 2004, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 60; June 10, 2004, Nathalie op de Beeck, interview with Willems; August 16, 2004, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 62; February 21, 2005, Susan Spencer Cramer, interview with Willems, p. 153; May 9, 2005, review of Time to Say "Please"!, p. 68; June 27, 2005, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. 61; February 20, 2006, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!, p. 154; July 17, 2006, review of Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, p. 156.

School Library Journal, May, 2003, Dona Ratterree, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 132; December, 2003, Bina Williams, review of Time to Pee!, p. 140; May, 2004, Robin L. Gibson, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, pp. 126-127; October, 2004, Martha Topol, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 136; August, 2005, Marianne Saccardi, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. 108, Julie Roach, reviews of The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! and The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!, p. 108, and Wendy Lukehart, review of Time to Say "Please"!, p. 108; September, 2005, Barbara Auerbach, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 60; April, 2006, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!, p. 122; September, 2006, Kate McClelland, review of Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, p. 187.

Time, December 5, 2005, Christopher Porterfield, review of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, p. W1.

Variety, November 13, 2000, Stuart Levine, review of Sheep in the Big City, p. 39.

ONLINE

CartoonNetwork.com,http://www.cartoonnetwork.com.au/ (April 7, 2006).

Cartoon Network's Friday's Fan site,http://fridays.toonzone.net/ (September 28, 2003), "Behind the Scenes Interviews: Tom Warburton and Mo Willems."

Mo Willems Home Page,http://www.mowillems.com (June 10, 2007).

Walker Books Web site,http://www.walkerbooks.co.uk/ (April 7, 2006), "Mo Willems."

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Willems, Mo

WILLEMS, Mo

Personal

Male; married; children: daughter. Education: New York University, B.F.A.

Addresses

Home Brooklyn, NY. Agent c/o Author Mail, Hyperion Books for Children, 114 Fifth Ave., 14th Fl., New York, NY 10011.

Career

Animator and illustrator. Researcher for Children's Television Workshop; script writer and animator, Sesame Street, PBS, 1994-2002; creator and director of animated series The Off-Beats, Nickelodeon, 1995-98; creator and director of animated series Sheep in the Big City, Cartoon Network, 2000-02; head writer of animated series Codename: Kids Next Door, Cartoon Network, 2002. Short films have appeared on MTV, HBO, IFC, Tournee of Animation, and Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation. Commentator for BBC Radio, 1994-97. Member of Monkeysuit (comix collective). New York, NY.

Awards, Honors

ASIFA-East Awards for animation; six Emmy Awards for work on Sesame Street; National Parenting Publications Award, 2003, for Time to Pee!; Caldecott Honor Book citation, American Library Association, 2004, for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

Time to Pee!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to books, including Monkeysuit, Monkey-suit Press; Cartoon Cartoons, DC Comics; and 9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember, DC Comics, 2002.

Work in Progress

Time to Say Please!, a sequel to Time to Pee!; Leonardo, the Terrible Monster; board books about Pigeon; a feature-length animated film based on Codename: Kids Next Door.

Sidelights

Mo Willems is an Emmy Award-winning television writer, animator, and author. Willems, who spent nine years as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, is the creator of more than 100 short films, many of which have appeared on MTV, HBO, the Tournee of Animation, and Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation. He is the creator of the animated television series Sheep in the Big City and The Off-Beats, and he serves as the head writer for the Cartoon Network's Codename: Kids Next Door. Willems is also the author of a number of picture books, including the Caldecott Honor Book Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale.

Willems' interest in cartooning began as a child. "I've been drawing funny cartoons my whole life," he noted on his Web site. "I started out by drawing Snoopy and Charlie Brown and then started to make up my own characters. Luckily, no one has made me stop yet!" Willems decided on a career in animation during the 1980s, while studying at New York University. "My desire as a kid was to find a way to be funny and draw," he explained to Martin Goodman in an interview for Animation World. "Animation turned out to be the best way for me to do that."

Willems made what he considers his first "watchable" film, The Man Who Yelled, while a student at New York University. "That was my calling card for many years," he admitted to Goodman. "It got into a couple of festivals, got shown around, and that's how I found other work." A stipend from the founders of Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation allowed the filmmakers to create Iddy Biddy Beat Boy, another acclaimed short film. Willems eventually landed a job in the research department at the Children's Television Workshop, where he was eventually hired as an animator for Sesame Street. Willems told Goodman that it was a "great fit because the kind of films I wanted to make were very close to the kind of films they wanted to air. I really felt that I was making personal work, even though I was teaching the 'letter of the day' or something like that." Willems worked for Sesame Street from 1994 to 2002, during which time he garnered six Emmy Awards.

In 1995 Willems began producing The Off-Beats, a series of animated shorts about Betty-Anne Bongo and her unusual friends, for Nickelodeon. The success of that series led to Sheep in the Big City, which debuted on the Cartoon Network in 2000. Variety reviewer Stuart Levine described Sheep in the Big City as "an amusing tale of a shy but determined woolly creature on the lam after government bad guys try to kidnap and use him as a critical component of a high-powered weapon." After the series was canceled in 2002, Willems was contacted by Tom Warburton, who asked him to write for Codename: Kids Next Door. The series follows the adventures of five ten-year-old agents who battle the forces of adulthood. In 2003 Codename: Kids Next Door became the highest-rated show on the Cartoon Network.

Willems' first picture book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, was published in 2003. "The premise of this cheeky debut is charmingly absurd," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly. A bus driver steps out of his vehicle for a short break, asking that the reader keep an eye on things while he is gone. Before he leaves, the driver makes one special request: "Don't let the pigeon drive the bus." A big-eyed pigeon soon appears and tries to negotiate a spot behind the wheel, at various points telling the reader, "I'll be your best friend" and "I'll bet your mom would let me." Finally the pigeon throws a huge but futile tantrum as the driver returns, thanks the reader, and pulls away. The pigeon's disappointment is only temporary, though, as he spots a tractor-trailer coming up the road. "Willems hooks his audience quickly with the pigeon-to-reader approach and minimalist cartoons," noted the Publishers Weekly critic. Gillian Engberg, reviewing Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! for Booklist, remarked that "each page has the feel of a perfectly frozen frame of cartoon foot-ageaction, remarkable expression, and wild humor captured with just a few lines."

The cantankerous bird makes a return appearance in The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! In this work the pigeon spies a discarded hot dog and swoops in for a meal. Just as he is about to devour the treat, a tiny duckling scoots in and makes a number of seemingly innocent but calculated inquiries about the hot dog. According to Horn Book reviewer Kitty Flynn, "The hot-headed pigeon humorously wrestles with a minor moral dilemma (to share or not to share) that will immediately resonate" with young readers. Though the pigeon is wise to the duckling's game, the pesky fowl's incessant questions eventually wear down his resistance, and the pair end up sharing the snack. Willems' "deceptively simple cartoon drawings convincingly portray his protagonist's emotional dilemma," observed Robin L. Gibson in School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found that the author/illustrator's design work adds much to the tale, stating that his use of "voice bubbles, body language, and expressive sizes and shapes of type crafts a comical give-and-take between the characters."

"More pep rally than how-to," Willems' 2003 work Time to Pee! "is perfectly attuned to preschoolers' sensibilities and funny bones," wrote Kitty Flynn in Horn Book. Time to Pee! features a band of cheerful mice who give advice and encouragement to youngsters still involved in potty training. Critics found much to like in the work. A Publishers Weekly contributor stated that Willems "infuses this potty training manual with saucy wit," and Booklist reviewer Jennifer Matson noted that the author "demonstrates a genius for spare but expressive lines and an almost uncanny rapport with the pre-school audience."

A toddler loses her prized possession in Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, which Horn Book contributor Flynn wrote "will immediately register with even pre-verbal listeners." In Willems' quaint tale, little Trixie and her dad take a trip to the local Laundromat, but on the way home Trixie notices that her beloved stuffed toy, Knuffle Bunny, has been left behind. Her frantic attempts to communicate"Aggle flaggle klabble!"are misinterpreted by her clueless father, so Trixie adopts a new strategy: she cries and goes "boneless." Only after the pair arrive home, however, and Trixie's mom questions the disappearance of the stuffed rabbit does Daddy realize his mistake. A critic in Kirkus Reviews deemed Willems "a master of body language; Trixie's despair and her daddy's frazzlement [are] as expressive as her joy and his triumph" in rescuing the toy bunny. Flynn praised the book's "playful illustrations" featuring cartoon characters "rendered in Willems's expressive retro style" and set against sepia-toned photographs of Brooklyn neighborhoods. The author/illustrator's "economical storytelling and deft skill with line lend the book its distinctive charm," wrote a contributor in Publishers Weekly.

Critics often make note of Willems' minimalist graphic style, which pleases the animator. As he told Goodman, "While I enjoy all forms of drawing, a single line, simply done, is more beautiful than a hundred little lines sort of approximating the same thing. I like my characters to be two-dimensional. Just because you can do something in 3-D doesn't make it better. I want my line to be focused, so the emotions of a character are clear."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Animation World, September, 1997, Arlene Sherman and Abby Terkuhle, interview with Willems; June 25, 2001, Martin Goodman, "Talking in His Sheep: A Conversation with Mo Willems."

Booklist, September 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 123; November 1, 2003, Jennifer Matson, review of Time to Pee!, p. 499; January 1, 2004, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 782; February 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 1064.

Entertainment Weekly, October 3, 2003, review of Time to Pee!, p. 74.

Horn Book, January-February, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of Time to Pee!, p. 75; May-June, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 323; September-October, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, pp. 576-577.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 542; October 1, 2003, Time to Pee!, p. 1233; April 1, 2004, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 339; August 1, 2004, review of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, p. 750.

New York Times, April 16, 2000, Peter Marks, "Now Mom and Dad Are Going Cartoon-Crazy, Too."

New York Times Book Review, May 16, 2004, Claire Dederer, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 184; December 15, 2003, review of Time to Pee!, p. 71; April 5, 2004, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, p. 60; June 10, 2004, Nathalie op de Beeck, interview with Willems; August 16, 2004, review of Knuffle Bunny, p. 62.

School Library Journal, May, 2003, Dona Ratterree, review of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, p. 132; December, 2003, Bina Williams, Time to Pee!, p. 140; May, 2004, Robin L. Gibson, review of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, pp. 126-127.

Variety, November 13, 2000, Stuart Levine, review of Sheep in the Big City, p. 39.

ONLINE

Borders Web site, http://www.bordersstores.com/ (August 16, 2004), Trudy Wyss, "Hot Dog!: Mo Willems's Pigeon Returns."

Cartoon Network's Fridays: The Fan Site, http://fridays.toonzone.net/ (September 28, 2003), "Behind the Scenes Interviews: Tom Warburton and Mo Willems."

Hyperion Books for Children Web site, http://www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com/ (August 16, 2004), "Mo Willems."

Mo Willems Studio Web site, http://www.mowillems.com/ (August 16, 2004).*

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