Mo Willems, the kiddie-lit author/illustrator who has left his magic mark on young readers, introducing them to personality-packed characters like Trixie, Elephant and Piggy, Pigeon and more, wowed a huge crowd at St. Louis County Library Headquarters on Tuesday evening with his antics and humor.
Tickets for the Willems event sold out in two minutes.
Striding onto the stage, Willems commanded attention, his patterned jacket and neon orange shoes flamboyant and fitting. He kicked off the fun instantaneously, saying he loved the sign at Lambert Field, “Welcome to St. Louis, Mo.”
In the Show-Me State, Willems showed the audience his stuff – the quick wit he’s known for, and spot-on comedic timing. After a rousing welcome, Willems told the audience what they could expect from his presentation. First off, photo ops. They would be first – and Willems cavorted around the stage, in a variety of silly poses, holding a book. Then the audience was instructed to “Put your cameras away.”
“And if you don’t, I will publicly shame you,” Willems said, “being genetically Catholic I can do this.”
Next, Willems launched into a reading of his newest book, released on the day of his St. Louis appearance, “Welcome: a Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals.” It’s a zany how-to for babies, a field guide for infants that’s sure to be the hot shower gift for upcoming mommies. The beginning and end of the book feature a mirror so “you can take an emotional selfie,” with “any baby you can find,” Willems said.
Following a partial reading of the book, Willems took several questions from the audience, but not before he laid out “Mo’s rule for questions.”
“You can ask me anything you wants, and I will answer anything I want.”
A child asked, “Is it hard to write a book?” Willems retorted, “No! It’s not hard to write a book, but yes it is hard to write a good book.”
Another question brought more laughs from the crowd, “Where did you get your orange shoes.” Willems shot back a lightening response. “I’m not sure if this is a question from a fan or my mother,” then adding, “From the shoe store.”
To the delight of the crowd, Willems read “I Really Like Slop,” starring Elephant and Piggie, a popular, dynamic, book-series duo. “They have retired,” Willems said, assuring others all is well because “they got a really good 401K.”
The sparring buddies won’t be featured in any more books, but they will appear once again in “We Are In An Art-ivity Book!” an activity book that releases in the fall. Willems has a picture book pubbing this fall too, “Sam, The Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World,” which he read from start to finish.
After the book talk, Willems worked his way through signing books, stacks and stacks carried to his autograph table by young, middle and older admirers, each getting a Willems signature and a quick sketch of one of his characters – a lasting reminder of a special night with a writer “The New York Times” calls a modern-day Dr. Seuss.
St. Louis County Library has a calendar-rich slate of author events – more than any other library in the United States. For more information go to https://www.slcl.org/content/upcoming-authors.