Mo Willems is hands down one of my favorite children's books authors, and in my opinion, going to have a very long career. He is part of what I might call the new crew of children's book writers. Where I often find myself attracted to the older era of writers Mo Willems and a few others are reviving the field. I love all of his books but for now I'm picking a book that I have read a lot recently, Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.
The story concerns a dinosaur named Edwina who of all things doesn't know she is extinct. She bakes cookies and is one of the most beloved creatures in town. Everyone loves her except for Reginald von Hoobie Doobie who knows that dinosaurs are extinct. He tries to tell everyone about this but they don't really seem to listen. He finally tracks down Edwina who listens to everything he has to say. She decides she doesn't care that she is supposed to be extinct, and finally neither does Reginald.
I think for a seemingly simple story their are many messages in it. First, it doesn't matter if you are extinct or perhaps even outdated. My favorite message is how blind friendship can be to social norms. Reginald decides he no longer cares about how Edwina is 'supposed to be' because she is the only one who listens to him, she is a good friend.
Now, I read somewhere that Mo Willems' illustrations are supposed to be simple enough that a child can draw them, but I do believe there is a layer of sophistication he brings that a child could not. The illustrations are simple, but clean. His use of space and proportion are phenomenal. I find one of his strengths, demonstrated in many of his books, is his use of size and proportion to indicate mood.
Mo Willems is not an unknown author. He is the recipient of two Caldecott Honors and recently won the Theodor Suess Geisel Medal. Did I forget his six Emmy awards for children's television? He probably doesn't need any additional praise, and certainly not from a small blog, but he deserves it. I wait with baited breath for the arrival of his new book on April 1st. It might just be another book of the week.