The High Museum of Art presents “Seriously Silly! The art & whimsy of Mo Willems,” a retrospective of illustrations by the best-selling children’s book artist and author, on view through Jan. 10, 2016.

Willems has created more than 40 books for children and won numerous literary awards, including three Caldecott Honors. “Seriously Silly!” features more than 100 works by the artist—from preliminary drawings to completed illustrations—that chronicle the past 12 years of Willems’ whimsical world, populated by his beloved characters Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie, The Pigeon, and many more.

Organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Amherst, Mass.), the exhibition gives viewers a glimpse of Willems’ creative process and reveals the comedic genius of his books, which culminate in crescendos of emotion highlighted by large and often jagged type and expressive lines.

In addition, the High celebrated Mo Willems Day on Saturday, May 30, 2015. The “Seriously Silly!” is presented on the Lower Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion and features a reading area for young visitors to engage with Willems’ stories in the Greene Family Learning Gallery.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 40-page, full-color catalogue featuring Willems’ illustrations. A selection of Willems’ books and merchandise are also available for purchase at the High Museum of Art Shop.

The New York Times best-selling author and illustrator began his career as a writer and animator for PBS’s “Sesame Street,” where he garnered six Emmy Awards for his writing. During his nine seasons at “Sesame Street,” Willems also served as a weekly commentator for BBC Radio and created two animated series, Nickelodeon’s “The Off-Beats” and Cartoon Network’s “Sheep in the Big City.” While serving as head writer for Cartoon Network’s number one-rated show, “Codename: Kids Next Door,” Willems began writing and drawing books for children. His debut effort, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” became a New York Times best-seller and was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2004. The following year “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” was awarded a Caldecott Honor. The sequel, “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity” earned Willems his third Caldecott Honor in 2008. In addition to picture books, Willems created the “Elephant and Piggie” books, a series of beginning readers, which were awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal in 2008 and 2009 and Geisel Honors in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Willems’ drawings and sculptures have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums across the nation, and his graphic story about his family experiences during 9-11 for DC Comics resides in the Library of Congress’s permanent collection. Willems wrote the script and lyrics for “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical,” commissioned by the Kennedy Center for its 2010 season. His monumental sculpture, “The Red Elephant,” can be viewed in the courtyard of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Willems lives in Massachusetts with his family.


*Cover photo: Illustration © 2004 by Mo Willems. Reproduced with permission of Hyperion Books for Children.

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