Author Interview: Mo Willems

November 7, 2011

Your bookshelf no doubt contains at least one or two of Mo Willems‘ infectiously happy books, doesn’t it? Hopefully more! I love how every one of his stories has wonderful lessons to share in a simply enjoyable way, whether you’re stifling giggles while reading one of the Pigeon’s hilarious lines or just marveling at the heart-breaking, grown-up generosity of Trixie. Without exception, they’re all so much fun to read aloud, even though I personally find it difficult to compose myself when Edwina shows Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie what kindness and friendship truly mean. Oh, that sweetheart dinosaur!

Mo was kind enough to answer a few questions in between his Happy Pig Day! tour and launching a new Pigeon app, and I’m so grateful to him. I love his answers, but I knew I would!

Q: Was your childhood as creative and full of funny moments as we imagine it?

A: While by no means tragic, my childhood was mostly lonely. I suppose that’s why I enjoy writing for kids; I want to show them that someone is on their side. I was lucky, however, in having spent much of my childhood reading comics and traveling, for which I am very grateful.

Q: Describe the view from where you write and draw.

A: My studio is perched on the top of an old, rambling Victorian in a small town in the North East. My desk has a front row seat to woods, my wife’s garden, kajillion of birds, and an occasional frolicking dog. I’ll have to remember to look out of it from time to time.

Q: What’s your favorite way to spend time with your family?

A: I love dinner with the family because we get to chat, eat, drink, and end our meal doodling on a big sheet of paper that serves as our tablecloth. It is an efficient combination of my favorite things. I am also an avid petanque player.

Q: What’s the best parenting advice you’ve either received or given?

A: Hug your kid.

Q: You used to be a stand-up comedian; what’s your favorite joke?

A: You can’t go wrong with the classic:

“Why was 6 afraid of 7?”

“Because 7 was a jealous, unstable sociopath with violent tendencies and 6 was a paranoid neurotic to begin with.”

There may be another answer to that one; I’m not sure.

———

Don’t you love the idea of a giant piece of paper as a tablecloth? Honestly, these author interviews and home tours are giving me so many gentle reminders that it’s the simplest things that mean the most. I hope you’re finding beautiful treasures to keep, too!

Thank you, Mo, for playing along in the middle of a very busy schedule!

P.S. — Here’s a charming video of Mr. Willems. Take a peek:

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 elz November 7, 2011 at 7:56 am

We love Mo in our house. What a charming interview, exactly as I imagined it would be. I’ll have to remember his joke, it’s a good one!

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2 Michelle November 7, 2011 at 7:58 am

We are obsessed with Mo in our house! How we love him! My three year old can “read” quite a few Piggie and Elephant books by himself, complete with special voices. He is getting several Mo books for Christmas, plus a Trixie puzzle and an awesome Piggie and Elephant READ poster.

Wonderful stuff!

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3 Design Mom November 7, 2011 at 8:09 am

Sounds like Christmas is going to be hilarious! : )

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4 Sandra November 7, 2011 at 8:17 am

We also love Mo! Great books. My boys especially love Knuffle Bunny on CD CD. It makes for a great car ride. I think I know what my next app will be =)

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5 Kristina November 7, 2011 at 8:23 am

We still love Mo at our house, even though our youngest is 8. Mo Willems is fabulous!

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6 Rhonda November 7, 2011 at 8:28 am

I met Mo Willems once and he is such a genuinely nice person. The children’s book industry is lucky to have him, as are his readers. Thanks for the interview.

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7 Design Mom November 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

How fun to meet him in person!

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8 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag November 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

Mo Willems = THE BEST

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9 Cecilia Madden November 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

simply amazing!

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10 Mills November 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

Your author interviews are great! Big fan of Mo Willems! The pigeon books are my favorite gift for my english speaking expatriate friends over here. Always a hit! Thanks for the delightful glimpse into Mr. Willems’s world.

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11 Marci November 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

My first grader loves Mo Willems. A couple of days ago she brought home a paper she’d worked on during free time at school. It was a picture of a pigeon and in her first grade handwriting it read, “Sit down or suffer the wrath of the pigeon!”. It made me smile:)

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12 Design Mom November 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

So funny, Marci!

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13 Jessie rivers November 7, 2011 at 9:21 am

We’ve been on a “Leonardo the terrible Monster” kick lately! Every night for the last month and honestly, I don’t get tired of it!

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14 Stacy November 7, 2011 at 9:24 am

We love Mo Willems at our home! We first fell in love with his book Edwina and then discovered his Pig and Elephant books!! Our first stop at the library is always to the section his books are located just to see if it is our lucky day and there will be a new book.

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15 Becca November 7, 2011 at 9:29 am

Piggy and Gerald are some of our favorite characters. When my kids are bored on a long car ride, my 4yo daughter will entertain my 2yo son by “performing” every line in “How Gerald Broke His Trunk.” It makes all of us laugh every time. BTW, I always pictured Mo Willems as a black guy. The photo surprised me.

I’m sure you have a long wish list of authors for these interviews, but two more that I’d love to see are John Lithgow and Steven Kellogg.

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16 Design Mom November 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for the author suggestions, Becca!

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17 Sandra Gonzales November 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

Thanks so much for this interview! I can’t wait to tell my daughter about the app.

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18 Marissa November 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

We love the pigeon books over here. My husband reads them in a Nacho Libre-esque accent and my 13 monh laughs and laughs. Great books

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19 Susan Sullivan November 7, 2011 at 10:29 am

I was so excited to see the 3 chapter in the Knufflebunny saga, but I barely got through the first reading with my daughter – I could not hold back the tears. I can’t believe how much that story affected me – I still tear up everytime I think about it. Mo Willems, you are awesome – thank you so much for all of your stories!

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20 Design Mom November 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Don’t you love stories like that?

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21 Damaris November 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

Scholastic just came out with a new DVD with Mo’s stories. Love his work!

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22 carla macklin November 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

Love this guy and his books! Thanks for the blurb on his upcoming app.

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23 Reading (and chickens) November 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

Mo! Willems! I love him! Favorite children’s author ever? Yes! My first-grader has Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed memorized, and Can I Play, Too? is their favorite. It’s hard to get them to not throw tons of balls at each other after each reading, though.

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24 Brittany {Mommy Words} November 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

We love Mo! So great to hear his answers and learn of this new great app. Thanks!

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25 Molly @thewaffler November 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

My daughter can’t get enough of the Piggie and Elephant books. I don’t mind re-reading these books night after night because I get a kick out of them, too. They are funny on so many levels.

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26 Starr November 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

That photo is great. I’ve heard his NPR series & enjoyed those thoroughly. But his kids’ books are the best. My husband reads “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” in a “Brooklyn” accent & my kids (and their friends) ask to talk in “the Pigeon Voice.” We found a “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” board game in a catalogue & I’m pretty sure it will played Christmas morning.

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27 Design Mom November 8, 2011 at 4:31 am

I don’t think I’ve heard his NPR series. So glad you mentioned it, Starr! I’ll have to check it out.

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28 Mary-- The Yellow Door Paperie November 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

My kids love all of Mo’s books but most of all they love the Knuffle Bunny books, especially Knuffle Bunny Free. Thank you for having Mo on today, what a brilliant author. I enjoy reading his books as much as my children do. We read Knuffle Bunny Free last night, every time I get choked up.

Thank you!

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29 Pgoodness November 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm

The App is great! My 6 & 8 yos can’t stop playing it! He seems so awesome!

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30 Kathleen November 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

I’d say that my boys love Mo Willems, but the truth is our whole family loves his books! Our most recent favorite is “Leonardo, the Terrible Monster”. Thanks for the interview!

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31 Nora Ballantyne November 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Gabrielle–
I just read your All Made Up post and wanted to chime in a request for you to do a post on what products you love, especially from the lovely GOOP list.
Keep up the excellent blogging work!
xo,
Nora

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32 Design Mom November 8, 2011 at 4:32 am

Good idea, Nora!

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33 Jennie f November 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Mo sounds awesome!! Btw, where do we look to see who won the latest giveaway??!!

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34 Design Mom November 8, 2011 at 4:32 am

Hi Jennie! Winners are posted at the bottom of the giveaway text. I was a bit late this week — I just posted the info this morning. Thanks for your patience. : )

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35 Amanda November 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I was SO excited when I saw you had interviewed Mo Willems! I just discovered his Pigeon books this year (3 cheers for Elementary Language Arts Class – I’m studying to be a teacher) and I love them! Hilarious books that are great for children AND adults!

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36 Camille November 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Love Mo Willems’ books! Happy Pig Day is very fun. My kids love his website so we will definitely have to check out his new app. Thanks for the fun interview!

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37 the emily November 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Oh my goodness, he is the greatest. I LOVE Mo Willems, and my kids go nuts for him. When we discovered the Elephant and Piggy books a few years ago we checked every single copy out that the library had and then had to buy them. They are just sooo funny. I remember checking out “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” when my seven-year-old was just a baby to read to him and ended up laughing and laughing. And every time my kids “go boneless” I think of Mo Willems.

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38 Trish M November 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Yea! More mo! Thanks for being you and have such great kids books.

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39 Clarity November 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie has become our family’s go-to fake name.

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40 Design Mom November 8, 2011 at 4:33 am

Brilliant, Clarity! I think we may need to copy you.

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41 kimberly November 8, 2011 at 2:29 am

i was so excited when i saw this! mo willems is one of the most charming, insightful and creative authors out there. i’m a substitute teacher and “naked mole rat gets dressed” is a favorite of mine and the hundreds of kids – of all ages – that i’ve shared it with. mo willems book have also been known to sneak into bed with me from time to time ;)

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42 Cleo November 8, 2011 at 5:33 am

His books are great! And I love the idea of drawing on a piece of paper as a tablecloth!

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43 becki November 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

thanks for the interview! the piggie and elephant books are beloved in our home, bringing joy and hilarity instead of drudgery to early readers.

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44 Sarah Buttenwieser November 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I interviewed him earlier this year for a magazine: http://www.previewma.com/article.cfm?aid=13104

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45 Sharon @ Discovering blog September 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

My son became a huge fan of Mo’s this year, which allowed me to discover his awesomeness. I just saw that he’s going to be at Books of Wonder in NYC on September 21st and I’m doing my best to get our butts in there to meet him.

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