Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mo Willems

Karen and I had a very nice time last night at a small, casual gathering to welcome writer-illustrator Mo Willems and his wife Cher as they visited our area. Mo is a multi-award-winning (Caldecott, Carnegie, etc.) author of children's books, some of which he illustrates himself and some of which are drawn by others. He regularly makes bestseller lists with books featuring his characters Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggy, and an odd-looking pop-eyed Pigeon. He puts out five or six books a year, which may make him the most prolific person I've ever met.

Before yesterday, I didn't know that about Mo. His kids lit career got going after my own children were too old for his books. What we know him for around my house, and why my now-grown girls were excited I got to meet him, was that several years ago he was the head writer for the animated Cartoon Network series "Codename: Kids Next Door." (He also created the series "Sheep in the Big City" and won Emmys for a decade of work on "Sesame Street.") Laura and Robin charged me with telling Mo that their favorite KND character was "Number Four," which I made sure to do first thing, to which Mo nodded knowingly and replied, "Ah yes, the 'bad boy!'"

The cast of "Codename: Kids Next Door." Number Four is the blond.

We later had a nice talk about that show, which intrigued me at the time because it could be incredibly dark and bleak, especially for a kids' program. You didn't see many 1984-style dystopian alternative futures in, say, Spongebob Squarepants.

But I spent much of my time with Mo playing petanque. Mo knows the game well, Cher coached me, and I seem to have a natural rough-hewn gift. I'm thinking of turning pro.

One of the nicer benefits of my cartooning semi-career has been meeting people like Mo who are in similar lines of work. When I was young, I sort of thought that if I ever reached a certain level of comics notoriety, I'd be taught the secret-society handshake and welcomed to the clubhouse. If someone had truthfully told me there's no such thing, I wouldn't have believed them. On the other hand, if they'd told me I'd someday be getting backspin tips from a person with a resume like Mo's, I wouldn't have believed that, either.

Mo gave me a copy of a little self-published sketchbook of his titled Float, and signed it to my girls. The drawing at top right is the "Kids Next Door" character Number One, because he's cooler than Number Four.



patricia said...

I cannot BEGIN to express how jealous I am of you at this moment.

L said...

Yay! We got an autograph! And we didn't even need to be there. ;) It sounds like you had a good time, and had things to talk about. I'm still just happy that you managed to get something signed for us (and Numbuh One is indeed pretty cool, no complaints there). (One thing though, I think Kids Next Door might have been on Cartoon Network, not Nick...)

Brian Fies said...

Patricia, you should be getting a private Facebook msg about now that will only increase your ire. Heh heh heh.

L., you're right about Cartoon Network! I've edited the post. Glad you like the autograph. Mo was a great guy.

Inkygirl said...

I'm more jealous than Patricia!