Don't Pigeonhole Me!
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
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Young readers first met the Pigeon, a beleaguered bird desperate for a shot behind the wheel of a bus, in 2003. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! went on to sell millions of copies, receive a Caldecott Honor, and spawn additional picture books, apps, games, and even silly bands.
But did you know the Pigeon was born many years earlier in the pages of a sketchbook?
In Don't Pigeonhole Me! Two Decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook, readers are given a rare glimpse into the mind of the man the New York Times described as "The biggest new talent to emerge thus far in the '00s." Since he was a teenager, Mo has been creating characters and scribbling ideas in the pages of sketchbooks. In the early 1990s, he started self-publishing collections of his drawings, and The Mo Willems Sketchbook was created. What began as a calling card for his work has morphed over the years from a form of therapy, to an opportunity to explore and experiment, to a gift for friends and loved ones. But these sketchbooks have always been (and continue to be) the well from which Mo draws ideas and inspiration.
Featuring a foreword by Eric Carle and an introduction by Mo, this volume includes all twenty sketchbooks from the last two decades. Don't Pigeonhole Me! reveals the author/illustrator at his most truthful, most experimental, most grown-up.
Want to know where ideas come from? Look inside.
Mo Willems (www.pigeonpresents.com), a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, has been publishing children's books since 2003. He has received three Caldecott Honors (for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity); two Theodor Seuss Geisel Honors (for We Are in a Book! and I Broke My Trunk!); and two Theodor Seuss Geisel Medals (for There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside?). His first picture book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, was inducted into the Indies Choice Picture Book Hall of Fame in 2009. Other favorites include The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster.
While best known for his work in publishing, Mo began his career as a writer and animator on Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards. He also created and executive-produced the animated series Sheep in the Big City and served as head writer for Codename: Kids Next Door. Additionally, Mo provided the book and lyrics for Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, which premiered at the Kennedy Center in May 2010. And his first app, Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!, was an iTunes Best of the Year in 2011.
In the foreword to this impressive coffee-table-size art book, Eric Carle calls Mo Willems "the master of the doodle." Carle provides a doodle of his own: the iconic hungry caterpillar, waving a heart flag and proclaiming, "Mo Willems rocks!" A compilation of Mo's sketchbooks from the past two decades, this offers a fly-on-the-wall look at where the illustrator's ideas originate. Fun fact: Pigeon, of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, appeared in a sketchbook long before his 2003 debut; he was "born in the corner of a notebook, complaining about how he was better than other doodles I was making." That sounds like Pigeon alright. In addition to Mo's general introduction, he briefly introduces each of the 20 sketchbooks. For instance, Mo tells us that Sketchbook 5, called "I'm Fine," was inspired by William Steig's The Lonely Ones (1970). Other entries include "Lazy Day Doodles," "Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs" (now a picture book), and the hysterical "Olive Hue Show Mutts," in which a drunk, slurring rabbit reminds adults just how hard it is to learn to read. The clean design and pastel background colors echo Mo's picture books, and the volume will delight his numerous fans-his adult fans (but let's not pigeonhole)-from beginning to end. - Ann Kelley—Booklist
With an engaging, conversational style, wisecracking illustrator Willems invites readers into the inner workings of his artistic process as he reflects upon the last twenty years of sketches, scribbles, and doodles. As a starving artist living in New York, Willems began drawing cartoons for a 'zine in 1993, eventually putting his sketches together in a special edition, the first Mo Willems Sketchbook. The single-panel, editorial-like cartoons that make up that early publication and its subsequent iterations are presented here, along with more narratively structured sketches, several of which eventually led to some of Willems' best hits, including Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (BCCB 5/03) and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (BCCB 11/05). Overall, though, the material here is aimed at an older audience; the tendency toward mischief and naughtiness that threads through so many of Willems' children's book is given free, adult-oriented rein in this particular format and his characteristic cleverness is on display alongside a penchant for dark comedy and existential contemplation (and a drunken bunny). Eric Carle provides a brief, amiable foreword, while somewhat adulatory quotes from various authors, illustrators, and celebrities introduce each chapter. The oversized pages and clean, focused layout keep the viewer's attention on the art, mostly black and white sketches that range from frenetically cartoony to solemnly abstract. While this has potential curricular use in a high school or college art class, its main audience will be interested adults; it would certainly make a fine gift book for those parents who match their children in their enthusiasm for the antics of Elephant and Piggie. KQG—BCCB
In this collection of sketches, adult fans of the award-winning Pigeon, KnuffleBunny, and Elephant and Piggie books are treated to a peek inside the mind of one of the most critically acclaimed and best-selling children's book creators of our time. Complied from volumes of The Mo Willems Sketchbook, an annual gift presented to friends, family, and potential clients, many of the drawings predate Willems's success as a picture-book author/illustrator. The early sketchbooks feature single cartoon-style panels and clever visual gags in the manner of the New Yorker. They crack wise about such topics as City Life, The Creative Process, and Couples. Some of the sketchbooks are deeply personal, such as I'm Fine, a darkly comic journey through self-doubt and fear. Later sketchbooks reveal Willems's early experiments with the slightly longer narratives and dynamic page turns that became the springboard for his first picture books. Adults will appreciate many of the grown-ups-only read-alouds such as the hilarious and "intoxicatingly hard reader" Olive Hue Show Mutts. Educators in the fields of children's literature and art will find interest in seeing the genesis of characters like The Pigeon and enjoy this rare glimpse into the often-private world of artist doodles. Kiera Parrott, Darien Library, CT—SLJ