Waterville Celebrates Bestselling Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Mo Willems

Announcements4 MIN READ

The acclaimed author will speak at Colby and receive an honorary degree and also offer events for community children

A beloved author, illustrator, animator, and playwright, Mo Willems is best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books. (Photo by Chris Fortuna)
By George Sopko
March 7, 2024

To help celebrate the arts in Waterville and the inaugural year of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, Colby College is pleased to announce that acclaimed author Mo Willems will speak at Colby and receive an honorary degree on Monday, March 18. The College, Waterville Creates, and the Waterville Public Library will offer associated events for community children on March 16.

Best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books—Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!; Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity—Willems is a beloved author, illustrator, animator, and playwright. He was the inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence (2019-2022) and continues to collaborate on creating projects involving classical music, opera, comedy concerts, dance, painting, and digital works. He began his career as a writer and animator on PBS KIDS’ Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards (writing), and last year published Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 20th Anniversary Edition.

Willems will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree, the highest honor the College bestows to recognize accomplishments and achievements that reflects its ideals, values, and aspirations. Willems will engage in a conversation with Tracey Keevan, an editorial director at publisher Union Square & Co., about his creative process and how he built a career that spans multiple modes of creative expression. The event, at 4 p.m. in the Performance Hall of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, is free and open to the public. RSVP here.

“Throughout his remarkable career, Mo Willems has made an impact on countless children, inspiring a passion for reading, drawing, and creating through a range of mediums,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “His innovative collaborations make art accessible to all and demonstrate the power of the arts to bring people together and bring joy to our lives.”

Mo Willems cartoon characters_small
(Credit: Art ©️ Hidden Pigeon, LLC)

In celebration of his visit, the Waterville Public Library will host a read-aloud of his books at the Waterville Public Library on Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The event is for children and their parents and caregivers, and participants will have the opportunity to take photos with Willems’s iconic Pigeon character. Free copies of the newest book by Willems, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!, will be available while supplies last.

Also on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Waterville Creates will host an “ART-ivity” event for children of all ages at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street. Activities from Willems’s We Are in an ART-ivity Book!—drawing, coloring, sculpting, gaming, puzzling—will be available to complete at the center, and copies of the book will be provided while supplies last. Pigeon will also be attending this event and will continue to be available for photographs.

“We’re delighted to partner with Colby and the Waterville Public Library to offer these special events for children in our community,” said Patricia King, vice president of Waterville Creates. “Mo Willems’s commitment to exploring new artistic expressions and pushing the boundaries of the creative process has endeared him to millions, and the activities downtown will continue our celebration of Youth Art Month.”

Willems’s visit celebrates how the city is evolving into a dynamic arts destination with a unique set of venues and attractions that are unparalleled in Northern New England. A key part of this is developing an exciting mix of programming that brings to life the amazing arts assets that the area has to offer and allows residents and visitors to see and experience a wide range of wonderful art and artists.