Mention Elephant and Piggie or Knuffle Bunny to any young reader and they will know exactly who you mean. These residents of the picture book world are brought to life by the author-illustrator Mo Willems.
Opening on March 18, 2016, the New York Historical Society has put together a midcareer retrospective of Mr. Willems’ work. In 2014, the Society mounted a wildly popular exhibit of the art of Ludwig Bemelmans. Both children and adults flocked to the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, which is located on the lower level of the musuem. They are now following up with the Willems exhibit, which originated at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Mr. Willems has been an author-illustrator of children’s books for just 13 years. It seems hard to believe because he has had such a great impact on the genre. Like his idol Charles Schulz, Mr. Willems considers himself a cartoonist. His method of creation is to put as little into the drawings as possible. “His peers admire his ability to pack exhilarating humor and emotional resonance into a remarkable economy of line.” The nonchronological order exhibit includes an audio tour narrated by Mr. Willems, who delivers kid-friendly jokes and clear explanations of how he makes his art. In the final room of the exhibit, viewers will see the cover and two illustrations from the 25the and final Elephant and Piggie book “The Thank You Book.”
In addition to the exhibit, there will be several special events throughout the next several months related to the show.