105 Ways to Give a Book

Mo’ Reactions

While there were definite gasps and applause when The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott gold, I’m sure that there were also cheers for the two medals Mo Willems’ books received. Personally, I wasn’t able to hear them, since I was at home cheering, “Yeah! Yeah!” like it was a football game in the fourth quarter.

In dashing off a note of congratulations to Mo, I slipped in that I might want to ask a few questions. Gracious man that he is — and wise as well — he shared some thoughts about the awards.

When did you get the call and what did you say? And then when did you get the second call and what did you say?

I can’t really recall. Let’s assume I was witty and clever and charming and modest and kind and thoughtful and erudite with clear diction on one call and a dumb jackass on the other, shall we?1

Looking around the previous Caldecott winners, I can’t find another example of a book sequel getting a nod. What do you think sets Knuffle Bunny Too apart for this Caldecott first?

Bemelmans did it for Madeline (Honor, ’39) and Madeline’s Rescue (Medal, ’54).

As for what set my books apart for this “Caldecott second,” it’s unfair to ask me to judge what judges judged. I’m just glad they liked ’em...

I have to admit that the Geisel award wasn’t on my radar screen. Was it something you had in your sights for the Elephant and Piggie series?

I was really shooting for the Ulysses Award, or as it’s known in the vernacular, the “Hard Reader Medal”.2 This über-prestigious distinction is given annually to the least comprehensible book for humans published by a University Press.3

I thought I was a shoo-in as the “Elephant” in the Elephant and Piggie books is a reference to pre-industrial mythology as contrived in the post-impressionist period (duh), while the “Piggie” represents a pig (oink).

My disappointment is tempered by the fact that I’m not Irish.

You’ve won Caldecotts, a Carnegie Medal, and six Emmy Awards. As a well-known children’s author/illustrator, how can you get the Geisel Award noticed in the area of early literacy?

That’s a question for Herr Ambassador.

  1. I can, however, recall the favorite thing that’s been said to me in the last few days. Nick Clark (who runs the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art) congratulated me on my “Bi-fecta”. Snort. 
  2. Or as it’s known in the pubs, a “Joycee.” 
  3. Past “winners” include There Be Things of Wildness, Yet Where They Be is Either Unknown or Unknowable; Propel Thyself Canine, Propel Thyself (for If We Move Not, Can We Really Be Said to Be?); and more controversially, a direct rip-off of The Giving Tree entitled Stumpy: The Arboreal Being With No Boundaries


Marcie Flinchum Atkins said...

I hope Mo knows how much you love him! How cool that he did a mini-interview for you! That makes Mo rock even more! I think we should invite all of our fiction picture book committee to coffee with Mo and Mr. Ambassador. I'm sure they'd have us laughing until coffee came out of our noses!

Libby said...

this is hilarious, and one of the funniest footnotes ever! (snort)

Anonymous said...

"Propel Thyself Canine, Propel Thyself." LOL!

Go Mo, Go!


Cheryl said...

It's clear how much you love Mo's work in your thoughtful questions, Pam. Mo's got strong humor.

Anonymous said...

I admit that I've always liked Mo, but I believe that after reading his response to the Elephant & Piggie question, I am in love. Thank you, MR, for this phenomenal interview.

Saints and Spinners said...

Hey, has anyone else besides me notice the uncanny facial resemblance between Elephant and Mo? That is, Mo is quite handsome, and Elephant is, well, Elephant, but still... round face, glasses, quizzical air. Elephant's nose is a bit bigger than Mo's, though.

I appreciate the Hard Reader medal. I see meme possibilities, here.

There, now, MoRe! Honor is satisfied, and I want the secret to footnotes.:)

Anonymous said...

Oh dear MR, you are the fan that every writer dreams of having someday. Mo rocks, no doubt about it.

Susan Kusel said...

I just watched the webcast again... determined to hear the cheers for Hugo Cabret this time. And I can tell you that there was substantial applause for Knuffle Bunny Too, and HUGE applause for There is a Bird on My Head!

Bkbuds said...

See? This is proof that cyber-stalking is a good thing. Keep it up! This was a hoot.

And I agree on the Joycee meme. My entry: "The Feline Exhibiting Millinery Affectations: An Adventure in Doggerel" by Theodore Geisel.

Not that I'm as clever as Mo. Just challenging everyone to come up with their own entries, is all.

Robin Brande said...

Love it. Why can't everyone be that funny? Wouldn't this be a wonderful world?

Andromeda Jazmon said...

You guys are a hoot. I am with Alkelda - I see the resemblance. I really love that book and I am so glad it got an award. Thanks for the interview MoRe and Mo.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the interview!!
I think you should road trip to Athens, GA on March 1st to come with me to see Mr. Mo at the GA Children's Literature Conference - I think it will be the highlight of my year!!

MotherReader said...

Oh, I finally got one, no two!

The Metatarsus, Phalanges, and Calcaneus Tome. Or In Quest of A Maternal Figure In a Post-Industrial Age.

This is fun.

Thanks for all the comments folks. I have to agree that Mo is one funny guy.

Bill said...

Fare Thee Well, O Luna, for the Fall of Darkness Be Nigh

Seek Truly to Find the Measure of Mine Affection for Thee: An Exercise in Evaluative Metaphysics

That's all I've got for now. But I reserve the right to add more later.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I read this the other day but had to come back for yet one more laugh. Thanks.

Jules, 7-Imp