Mo Willems - Illustrator
Mo Willems is more than just an author and illustrator. He's "your pal" too, according the covers of his books. Mo seems to know just what kids (and pigeons) are thinking. He knows how hard it is to lose a Knuffle Bunny, especially when Dad doesn't understand what you're saying. He knows that taking Time to Pee! isn't always easy. And he also realizes that pigeons really do want to drive the bus, even if that isn't a good idea.
RIF: How do you stay in touch with your inner-kid? You seem awfully good at it!
Mo Willems: I don’t have an inner kid; I have an outer kid. He’s pretty easy to access.
RIF: What kind of kid were you?
MW: I guess I was funny. It was weird, on one hand my classmates laughed at my jokes and asked me to make drawings for them; on the other I was very unpopular.
RIF: Did you have a favorite book as a kid? Your books are great for reading over and over. Did you do that as a kid?
MW: All books are made to be re-read because each time you read them you bring something new to the pages. If you’re sad, the story might seem more serious; if you’re happy, it might seem funnier. I wasn’t much of a “book” reader as a kid, but I did voraciously read and re-read any Charlie Brown comic strip collection I could get my hands on.
RIF: Does your daughter read your books? If so, does she have a favorite?
MW: Trixie likes all of my books, but thinks hers are better. She’s probably right.
RIF: You seem to know what's hard for kids, like losing their Knuffle Bunny or leaving when they have to pee.
MW: When I write and draw a book, I do the same thing a kid does when she’s confronted with a problem: I take it seriously. Just because someone is small doesn’t mean that her problems are small. Oh, and the pee thing, that’s still hard for me.
RIF: Do you remember what being a kid was like?
MW: Sure, but I don’t write stories about my childhood, I write stories about my readers’ childhoods.
RIF: Both kids and adults love your books. Do you think about who'll be reading your books?
MW: I think all the time about how people will interact with my stories. The cool thing is that no matter how hard I try to second-guess my audience, they’ll always see new, cool stuff in my books, stuff I’d never imagined!
RIF: Do you have a favorite character you've created?
MW: My favorite character is my next character. I’m always looking forward to making up new stories. As for persistence, The Pigeon is the most relentless character I know; he always gets angry when I start working on a book that’s not about him.
RIF: Will you make another cartoon show for kids?
MW: I’m having too much fun writing and drawing books right now. But never say ‘never’. Drat! I just said ‘never’! Aaargh! I said it again!
RIF: How do you come up with your drawing style? It seems simple, but there are lots of funny details.
MW: Hopefully, there are some funny big details as well. I try to keep my drawings as simple as possible because I want any 4 year-old to be able to reasonably draw the book’s characters. The fun of a book shouldn’t end when you’ve finished reading.
RIF: Were you ever afraid of monsters? Where did the idea of Leonardo come from?
MW: My closet was way too full of junk for any monsters to fit into. Leonardo is a based on lots of people I’ve met who are miserable trying to do what is expected of them, instead of doing what they’re good at.
RIF: What was it like writing for Sesame Street? Did you have a favorite character?
MW: Sesame Street was a great place to learn how to write funny. The big advantage of writing for Muppets was that no matter how dumb your words were; they made them seem hilarious. I guess I’m partial to Elmo, but only because his name means “The Mo” in Spanish.
RIF: Have you ever driven a bus?
MW: No, and I’ll probably never get the chance. The Pigeon would never forgive me if he found out that I did.
RIF: And do you like hot dogs?
MW: They’re my favorite processed food.
Get in touch with Mo Willems on his website!