You know that thing where you’re ready to go get a drink with your GeekMom friends after BookExpo and one of them scored an invitation to the Disney/Hyperion rooftop party with Mo Willems, which you might have gotten, too, if you weren’t too busy in the Disney/Hyperion booth stuffing your face with delicious pigeon cupcakes? Yeah, me too.
So we go to the fancy party and I tried to act all cool when I met Mo Willems, not gushing about how I was buying up his books before I even had kids. I’ll never forget seeing Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and knowing I couldn’t walk out of the bookstore without it. That was 10 years ago, people. The Pigeon is celebrating his 10th birthday!
There’s a commemorative box set of the Pigeon board books that is super cute, and we learned at the party that there’s a new Pigeon book coming out, The Pigeon Needs a Bath. Ozzie needs that book. Pigeon goes through the classic routine of fighting the bath—fighting, fighting, fighting—until he finally gets in it. And… you guessed it, now he never wants to get out. Familiar.
The other exciting party news is the release of Don’t Pigeonhole Me! Two Decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook. This one is legitimately for me, not the kids. It’s a luscious coffee table book that combines 20 years of sketches. The Mo Willems Sketchbook began as the annual December issue of a publication called Ersatz, and morphed and grew until it started spawning the picture books we know today. I adore the stories before all of the different sketches, like this one before the sketches that later became Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus:
The Pigeon, who would years later star in my debut picture book, was born in the corner of a notebook, complaining about how he was better than the other doodles I was making.
Exasperated by his outbursts in the margins of my sketchbooks, I decided to try to put him in a story. The original idea for teh story features a little boy tasked with the job of not letting the Pigeon drive the bus. But that was no good for the Pigeon. He wanted to star, alone.
Clearly these drawings take on a life of their own. I also love the series of sketches that was Mo’s grown-up answer to easy readers, a “hard reader” starring an intoxicated Belligerent Bunny where all of the words sound something like what they mean.
This is an amazing book for lovers of kid lit (it even has a foreword by Eric Carle), and it’s great for artists, too. It’s a good reminder to just keep doodling. Look what can come of it!