Happy Birthday, Mo Willems!

Mo Willems is a beloved, best-selling children’s author and illustrator, whose silly sense of humor hits kids right on their funny bone. He gives adults a few chuckles as well.  His books are some of my favorite read-alouds.

Mo Willem’s birthday is February 11th, so I hosted a birthday party story time at the public library in his honor.  We had a great turnout:  60 kids and parents/caregivers!  We started by learning about him from this biography.  Did you know he used to be a writer for Sesame Street?

Mo Willems Biography

It wasn’t easy to pick just three of his books to read, but I settled on That is Not a Good Idea!, Knuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.  By the way, if you’ve ever wondered if you are pronouncing Knuffle correctly, here’s the scoop:

Q. How do you pronounce “Knuffle”?

 A. You can pronounce Knuffle however you like, but I pronounce it the Dutch way (it means “Snuggle” in Dutch) with a hard “K” like “Krackle”.

That is Not  Good Idea  Knuffly Bunny   Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Our elementary school-age patrons have informed me that they love story times that include food, which is admittedly not my favorite story time activity to shop for, prep, host and clean up after.  Still, I couldn’t resist this super cute food craft, that can be found on the Juggling with Kids blog.  A pigeon driving a bus that kids can make and eat!

Pigeon Graham Cracker Bus

I made it just as described in the blog, except I used frosting instead of cream cheese, and just broke a little piece of the Oreo off to make the pupil of the eye instead of buying a bag of mini chocolate chips.

IMG_6946I made these instructions and left copies on the tables.


Graham crackers (the bus)
White frosting
Yellow and blue food coloring
Chex or Life cereal (bus windows)
Mini vanilla wafers (the pigeon)
Mini Oreos (wheels)
Yellow Starburst candy (beak)
Mini chocolate chips (eyes)

Plastic knives for spreading frosting
Clear plastic cups for frosting
Paper plates

For those who finished early, I left these drawing pages and crayons out.  They can be downloaded here, by selecting Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 10th Birthday Celebration Activity Kit.  (These are also great to have at the elementary school library for after book checkout, when I read Mo Willems’ pigeon books.)


Here are two very special, regular story time attendees showing their creations, just before they ate them.


This was one of my favorite story times to host, and I would definitely do it again.
I’m even willing to rethink my feelings about story times with food.

Reading this book to K’s and 1’s IS a “Good Idea!”

That is Not A Good Idea!

Mo Willems.  Need I say more?  There isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love the sense of humor of this three-time Caldecott Honor winning author and illustrator.  That is NOT a Good Idea! is my new favorite book by Willems, thanks to a wonderful kindergarten teacher who shared her copy with me last year.

In the illustrative style of an old silent film, the hungry wolf proceeds to lure the sweet, demure mother duck for, er, to dinner.   The students wanted so badly  to warn the mother duck that her choices were NOT NOT NOT a good idea!  She just kept right along making obviously bad choices, page after page, to the increasingly frantic warnings from her ducklings, and Willems shamelessly leads us all to believe she is going to meet an awful end.  Spoiler alert:  It turns out, the sneaky wolf is actually the one making all the wrong choices.  Nail-biting anticipation culminates in a thigh-slapping, surprise ending that makes one want to go back and read it again, to see how one could have missed the signs.  Feel free to give in to the urge to do this.  It’s a quick read.

The adorable ducklings are so easy and fun to draw, using a guided drawing technique.   I explained that everyone is going to stay together for the entire drawing, and that it will be very hard not to go on ahead, but please wait for me to show how to add each new part.

This drawing is so simple, I apologize for insulting you by including the steps below.  You can go in whatever order suits you.  I demonstrated on a big yellow sheet, as I walked the students through it.

I only set out the colors of crayon that I wanted used.  Personal expression is for another day, and another project.  I wanted these to all turn out looking like the ducklings in the book, no pink eyelashes or purple dresses added.  Call me a control freak.  I don’t think you can give a kid a tray full of colorful crayons and expect them not to use them all, so I often sift through the crayon bin and pull out only approved colors.  (Go see my post for Harold and the Purple Crayon, if you don’t believe me.)

Supplies:  Yellow construction paper, black crayons, orange crayons, blue crayons

1)  Draw an oval.

2)  Draw two legs.

3)  Add wings.

4)  Add two little motion lines near his wings.

5)  Draw two dots for eyes, and add some eyebrows.

6)  Give him a tail.

7)  Draw three loops on top of his head.

8)  And now, the only tricky part–the mouth:  Draw two small horizontal ovals, and connect them with two black lines.  Fill in the middle area with black crayon.  Fill in the upper and lower beak with orange crayon.

Then kids can add their own personalization, like the ducklings in the book, by adding a hat, a bow tie, or a clinging eggshell.  Many went on to add more ducklings on the front and the back.   Most students can’t draw just one.  They’re just that fun to draw!

I think every one of those students can imagine themselves illustrating a children’s picture book now.