Fantastic Picture Books for Fans of Mo Willems
by Miranda Rosbach
I first heard of Mo Willems in a children’s literature class in graduate school. His quintessential childhood favorite, Knuffle Bunny, had just won the Caldecott. I had not yet read it, so I tracked it down. I remember laughing out loud at the moment Trixie goes boneless.
Few things are as delightful to both adults and children as funny books. For that reason, I’ve given Mo Willems books as gifts at baby showers and birthdays more than any other author. His Elephant and Piggie series is a touchstone for emerging readers, and his other books are equally enchanting.
Once, at a professional conference, Mo Willems emceed a book cart dance competition, and I’ve never forgotten the raucous delight of the librarian spectators. This is all to say, he’s got #kidlit street cred.
Check out these delightful titles if you’re looking for books similar to Mo Willems’s style and wit.
A Pig, and a Fox, and a Box
Pig and Fox like to play. They’ve got a box and a plan. One will hide while the other seeks. Inside the box, Fox hides, but Pig unknowingly sits on his friend. Next, Fox tries to trick Pig by setting a wig under a pile of rocks. When Pig runs to help his friend, he throws the rock onto the box where Fox is hiding. Poor Fox, will he ever learn? This rhyming tale is reminiscent of I Will Surprise My Friend.
When Carrot Met Cookie
Carrot and Cookie are best pals—unless outside friends make rude comments about Carrot, and Cookie doesn’t speak up. The next day, Cuke and Zuke make rude remarks about Cookie, and Carrot doesn't speak up. Feeling crumby, Cookie leaves to discuss the matter at home. Eventually, Cookie confronts Carrot. Once they mend their friendship, the pair celebrate with all their friends. It’s a culinary treat of a tale with a sweet moral that reminds us of Nannette’s Baguette.
Our Friend Hedgehog: A Place to Call Home
Hedgehog and Mutty live on an Island. One day, Mutty gets swept away by the wind, and Hedgehog crosses the wide river to the forest to find her friend. Unexpectedly, Hedgehog lands in Mole’s home, and the two creatures head to Owl’s lookout, hopeful that he can help them search. With a cast of likable characters and Castillo’s inviting illustrations, this 100+ page book (and series, actually) is ideal for children who enjoy chapter books like Mercy Watson and The Princess in Black.
Groundhog Gets It Wrong
Groundhog comes from a meteorological-minded family. Every February 2nd, his predecessors made striking seasonal pronouncements. Finally, it is Groundhog’s turn. Looking up and down and every which way, Groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and proudly proclaims that spring starts today! But what if Groundhog got it wrong? This humorous book offers a playful look at why rodent weather predictions sometimes run amuck.
Let's Make Cake! (Bobo and Pup-Pup)
Inspired by their friend Mouse, Bobo and Pup-Pup work together to make a cake. However, the exuberant Bobo substitutes ingredients while level-headed Pup-Pup looks on with skepticism. With no oven available, they try to use the sun for baking their cake. In the end, despite their failed culinary creation, the two agree that spending time together was worth it. Short sentences and likable characters make this series a must-read for Elephant and Piggie fans!
Fun, Fun, Fun!
Croc and Ally are all set for a day of fun. Ally wants to go swimming, but Croc insists he doesn’t want to get wet. Later, Ally happily informs Croc it’s time to get him a new hat. After trying on several hats, grumpy Croc isn’t convinced. Finally, when Ally finds a bug in the house, only a call to her mother will solve the problem. With three short stories in each book, these early readers are ideal for preschoolers.
Stanley has a busy morning. He’s got a store to run. Moving pallets of bright fruits and vegetables into place, Stanley must also ring up customers and clean up after his display gets knocked over. Familiar neighbors frequent his store, and Stanley works hard to keep everything running smoothly. The entire Stanley series is ideal for preschoolers.
Jack at the Zoo
Jack, the Lady, and Rex go to the zoo. They look at the animals, and Jack commandeers Koala’s habitat and eats his snacks. Jack gets left behind when it’s time to go, and Kola heads home with the gang. At home, Koala makes good choices (helps with dishes and sips tea quietly). Eventually, the Lady returns to the zoo and corrects the mistaken swap. Jack returns to his usual antics at home. Caregivers should point out that Jack himself isn’t bad (just as kids aren’t bad); however, some of Jack’s behavior and choices are bad.
It’s bedtime at the chicken house, and Papa settles in to read little red chicken her favorite fairy tales. He gently reminds her to listen and NOT interrupt during storytime. Chicken, ever the attention-seeker and exuberant performer, inserts herself into every story, much to her father’s dismay. With puns (for grownups) and a relatable, over-the-top interrupting child, this book will tickle your funny bone and have little ones asking for more. If your child loves this book, check out the animated series on Apple TV.
What creature lives in the bathtub? Does the Zookeeper love the koala bear or the walking stick insect most? The woman on the cliff is waiting for someone; who is it? What would you do if you found buried treasure? How can you tell if a child is dreaming of peaches? With no serious answers, this book — from two acclaimed picture book creators — may raise more questions than answers.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2023.