Mo Willems (born February 11, 1968) is an American writer, director, animator, and creator of cartoons. He is also an accomplished author of children's books. Willems was raised in New Orleans, where he graduated from Trinity Episcopal School and the Isidore Newman School. He graduated cum laude from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He married Cheryl Camp in Brooklyn, New York, in 1997. Willems now resides with his family in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Willems first became interested in cartoon art when he was just a child. When he was 3 or 4 he started to draw and create his own characters. Willems enjoyed writing stories about his characters to share with others. However, he became very disappointed when adults would constantly praise his work out of politeness. To fix this dilemma Willems started writing funny stories. He knew that even polite adults could not fake a laugh. So when the adults laughed he knew his story was good and if the adults still gave polite comments then he knew his story was bad.
After graduating from Tisch, Willems spent a year traveling around the world drawing a cartoon every day, all of which have been published in the book "You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons".
Returning to New York, he started his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he earned six Emmy Awards for writing during his tenure from 1993 to January 2002. During this period he also performed stand-up comedy in NYC and recorded essays for BBC Radio along with making a promo for Cartoon Network and animating the opening for a show on Nickelodeon. He later created two animated television series: The Off-Beats for Nickelodeon's Kablam, and Sheep in the Big City for Cartoon Network. Sheep in the Big City was a success with the critics but ultimately failed to attract sufficient viewership and was canceled after two seasons. Willems later worked as head writer on the first four seasons of Codename: Kids Next Door, created by one of his colleagues from Sheep, Tom Warburton. He left the show after four seasons to pursue his writing career.
Since 2003, Willems has authored numerous books for young children, many of which have garnered significant critical acclaim. The New York Times Book Review referred to Willems as "the biggest new talent to emerge thus far in the 00's" — and to his pigeon character as "one of this decade's contributions to the pantheon of great picture book characters." Three of Willems' books have been awarded a Caldecott Honor: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2004), Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (2005), and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity (2008). Recently he has been creating the Elephant and Piggie books, an early reader series about a friendly elephant and pig. Elephant and Piggie books won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal in 2008 and 2009, and Geisel Honors in 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2010, Willems introduced a new series of books featuring Cat the Cat, also aimed at early readers.