Saturday, October 9, 2010

More Mo Please! Fun at the Williamsburg Regional Library with Mo Willems

     On Wednesday night, I enjoyed the presentation at the Williamsburg Regional Library by author and illustrator Mo Willems. I'm glad I took the time to go during a busy week!  He was silly and very animated when he read aloud, and the kids just loved that!
      To start the evening out, Mo read his newest Elephant and Piggie book, We Are In a Book. I love the playful interaction of the characters and the reader that is cultivated in the text. Mo read with a lot of spunk and displayed plenty of playful dramatic flair. I think it would have been even neater to have the text under a document camera or shown in a digital format on the screen to enlarge the pages for an audience, as I sometimes do during class read alouds. Nevertheless, Mo made that small easy reader come to life! Mo said that because his "easy readers" like the Elephant and Piggie books are limited to the use of about 40 words per book, they ought to be called "hard writers."  

     A child asked a popular author question, "Which book is your favorite book?" Mo poignantly replied, "Books are like your children. You can't have a favorite. I always say my next book is my favorite book." Mo also shared his third and final Knuffle Bunny book aloud, Knuffle Bunny Free, which had a wonderfully sweet ending in honor of his daughter. A young child asked if the Knuffle Bunny books were true. Mo teased and eluded to the true inspiration from his daughter and how parts are imagined. He said, "A story is true if it is emotionally true to you." There's no doubt the Trixie in the books is emotionally true to Mo once you read Knuffle Bunny Free.

      Mo gave some good advice to the children in the audience. One mom raised her hand and said that her son was too shy to ask him about what to do about "writer's block." She referred to her son as an aspiring author, but Mo said that he was not aspiring. A child is only "aspiring" if he or she is just sitting there, daydreaming or staring at the paper, and  not actually writing anything. Mo said he IS a writer, because he writes, and therefore an author. It reinforced what I try to always communicate to to classes that I give writing coaching lessons in. One humorous notion Mo talked about was how fun writing is when you get to choose what to write in school. He said that writing was the only class where you are encouraged "to lie," or to be imaginative, when writing fiction. With enthusiasm, Mo said, "The more you lie, the better your work is!" The audience enjoyed a good laugh at that point of view.    

      I mentioned Mo's author advice to my 3rd and 5th grade writing classes this week. There was a great representation of MW students and siblings from all grade levels. I also saw Mrs. Clement, Mrs. Pegram, and Mrs. Wilson in attendance. Our fabulous media specialist, Maud Ann Wilson, clearly got the students excited about his visit! I was particularly thrilled to see one of our 5th grade students with a notebook, feverishly writing his advice down. She found me after the presentation and tackled me with a hug, so proud that she was chosen to ask a question and that she had ideas captured in her writing inspiration notebook. That's the culture and love of learning that we ALL nurture together at our school!

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