Thank You, Mo Willems!!

The Thank You Book
Saying goodbye is hard. Especially when you have to say it to two fictional characters that have brought you such happiness and laughter as Gerald and Piggie have brought to me and countless other readers over the years. Not familiar with Gerald and Piggie? They are the main characters in the popular “Elephant and Piggie” book series created by author and illustrator Mo Willems. Elephant and Piggie have stolen the hearts of many readers (both children and adults) with a friendship that is so honest and true and relatable. Everyone wants a friend like Gerald or Piggie, so it is understandable that so many of us were upset by the news that Willems was making the last Elephant and Piggie book. The Thank You Book was published in May 2016. Our beloved characters go through their last adventurea “Thank-o-rama”trying not to forget everyone they need to thank. They bring back all the characters from the previous books in the series, including the snake (with no arms to catch a ball), the flies (who love Piggie’s cooking), and the Pigeon (who has snuck his way into every book). And of course they do not forget the most important personyou, the reader! It is a great finale to this wonderful series that has touched my heart.

The first time I saw a Mo Willems book was before I even had kids or became a children’s librarian. I was working at the circulation desk, and someone had just returned a rather large picture book with a funny looking blue pigeon eating a hot dog on the cover. Children’s books were not really on my radar, but I was immediately drawn to the simple drawings and funny dialogue in speech bubbles.

Once my life became more kid-centric with the birth of my two sons and my career change to being a children’s librarian, Mo’s books played a role in both. When my older son started reading, Elephant and Piggie books were (and still are) a staple in his rotation of favorites.

I love incorporating Elephant and Piggie books in story-times for the toddler and preschool crowd. They are story-time gold! The kids love them and I have gotten full belly laughs from many of them. The best partparents get a laugh out of them too! The “punch line” ending is always great and unexpected.

Meeting Mo

I am very lucky that my oldest son, Bradley, shares my “Mo” obsession. Last summer we went on an adventure with one mission – to meet the great Mo Willems. Mo was appearing at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts for the premiere of his new animated movies (Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?). So we went on a road trip! The museum was such a fun place to explore, and my son loved seeing Mo’s newest animations on the big screen (he has watched the Pigeon movies over and over again). In the Q&A session preceding the movie premier, Mo told the crowd that he had finished the final Elephant and Piggie book. There was an audible gasp from the packed room! The last Elephant and Piggie book?? Afterwards we waited in a huge line and finally got to meet Mo. He is friendly and funny and just plain cool. My son was in shock to meet his favorite author. The look on Bradley’s face is priceless to me. (I was having a total “fangirl” moment too!!)
Meeting Mo
And of course Mo’s autographs are just as amazing as he isevery single book got either an elephant or a pigeon drawn by the man himself!
Pigeon and Piggie
We had such an amazing day, and it is one my son will never forget.
More Fun with Mo

Mo at the library

We have a great collection of Mo Willems’ work at all branches of the Mercer County Library system. You can find the Elephant and Piggie series in the picture book section under the call number E WIL (including the latest, The Thank You Book).

Some of my favorites include:
Elephant & Piggie favorites
There Is a Bird on Your Head!How can you go wrong with this title? Hilarity ensues when poor Gerald has to deal with a big problem (on his head).

I Am Invited to a Party!Piggie is invited to a party! Luckily, Gerald is a party expert and gets Piggie ready for every possible (and wacky) party scenario.

We Are in a Book!I love this book! So unique, it actually interacts with the reader.

Should I Share My Ice Cream?Gerald’s struggle between keeping his ice cream and being a good friend.

The more recent Elephant and Piggie books include:
More recent Elephant and Piggie books

I’m a Frog!This book does a great job of explaining imagination and pretending. (Yes, even adults pretend!)

Waiting Is Not Easy!A struggle for kids (and adults), but some things are worth waiting for!

I Will Take a Nap!Gerald is grouchy and wants to take a nap. Wait, is he already asleep? And why does Piggie have a floating turnip head?

I Really Like Slop!Trying new food can be very interesting.

You definitely cannot forget the Pigeon books (after allhe appears in the back cover of every Elephant and Piggie book).
Pigeon Favorites
My favorites include:

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, and The Pigeon Needs a Bath!.

If you are a fan of Elephant and Piggie and the Pigeon books, please don’t forget to check out Mo’s other picture books.
Mo’s other picture books
Some of my favorites include: Knuffle Bunny, Your Pal Mo Willems Presents Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and That is NOT a Good Idea!.

In October 2015, Willems came out with his first chapter book, The Story of Diva and Flea. Set in Paris, this charming book shows the developing and unexpected friendship between a dog and cat, and it is beautifully illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.

And if you still can’t get enough Mo, make sure you check out his animated films…
Mo Willems animated films
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! DVD (it is also available on Playaway View), The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! DVD, and Knuffle Bunny DVD.

“Mo”re to Come…

Even though we have to say farewell to new Elephant and Piggie adventures, Mo is not done yet. His newest picture book Nanette’s Baguette is scheduled to be released in October 2016.

Actually Elephant and Piggie are not completely going away. A new series of easy-reader stories, called “Elephant and Piggie Like Reading” are just thatbooks that Gerald and Piggie like to read.

 The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat
Beginning with The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat and We Are Growing by Laurie Keller, both slated to be released on September 20, 2016, our favorite duo will be make appearance in this fun new series.

You can also experience Mo Willems’ art in person! His exhibit “The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems” is on display at the New York Historical Society Museum until September 25, 2016. (Patrons can reserve a free museum pass through the Mercer County Library System. Click here for more information).

Finally, check out Mo’s website and blog for the latest information on new books, appearances, and lots of fun activities for your children. (The pigeon is also very active on Twitter).

We cannot thank Mo Willems enough–for creating wonderful characters that make children (and adults) of all ages laugh, cry, think, and want to read more. Elephant and Piggie’s adventures may be over but Mo is not finished delighting us.
-Lauren M., Lawrence HQ Branch 

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