MUSCATINE, Iowa–Mo Willems has entertained children and adults for more than a decade with his award-winning ELEPHANT & PIGGIE early reader series. Willems is a master of rendering emotional expression. A mere raise of Piggie’s eyebrow or Elephant Gerald’s toothy smile provide visual clues to the characters’ feelings. Willems uses simple vocabulary, 40 to 50 unique words per book, and clever text treatments, including various sizes, bolding, ALL CAPS, and italics, to maximum effect.
The exhibition, “Elephant & Piggie in WE ARE ART,” features Willems’s hand-drawn illustrations from all 25 ELEPHANT & PIGGIE books, as well as his digitally-colored final renderings. Early sketches, dummy books, and size charts reveal Willems’s methodical working process. All artwork in the exhibition is from the collection of Mo and Cher Willems. The exhibition was organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
The exhibition is on view at the Muscatine Art Center from Nov. 3 through Feb. 5, 2023, and admission is free of charge.
“The adventures of Elephant and Piggie are so much fun while also demonstrating the value of friendship,” explains Muscatine Art Center Director, Melanie Alexander. “People of all ages can relate to the quirky duo and will find that their conversations are laugh-aloud funny.”
Willems’s stories are certainly funny, but they also impart gentle lessons on manners, empathy, and—most importantly—the value of friendship. The pessimistic elephant and positive pig are a beloved odd-couple who, having joined the pantheon of children’s literary characters, will entertain and inspire children for generations.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Muscatine Art Center is hosting a Family Day on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. During the event, families can drop in for story time, crafts, and refreshments. The event is offered as part of Muscatine Art Week (November 4 – 12, 2022). Admission to Family Day is free of charge and reservations are not needed.
Teachers, youth group leaders, and others who work with children are encouraged to contact the Muscatine Art Center at 563-263-8282 to arrange tours of the exhibition. Tours are scheduled on first come, first served basis.