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Mo Willems at the Eric Carle Museum

My family spent the Fourth of July weekend vacationing in scenic (?) Springfield, MA. There’s a lot of kid-friendly stuff to do in the area*, and we were especially excited for a visit to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to see the new exhibit “Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art & Whimsy by Mo Willems” and the Vermont PuppeTree Theater’s production (in the auditorium) of Caps for Sale.

The Willems exhibit includes lots of sketches of his iconic characters alongside the finished items. It’s always interesting to see differences — in slight changes of color and in size, for example — between original artwork and illustration on the page. There’s a short movie of Willems discussing his process and some very complicated-looking color-coded grids that track his works in progress, along with a few sculptures and artwork from Willems’s own collection that inspires his work. Earlier this month the museum hosted a kickoff extravaganza, with the author in attendance, and on July 13, there’s a “Mo Films! Mo Books! Mo Fun!” event, including a book signing.

There’s also a Caldecott at 75 exhibit in the wonderful Reading Room (it ends on July 31, so hurry!). Unfortunately, just as I was starting to look around, my toddler started to throw a wee tantrum, so I didn’t get to see very much of what was there. What I did see, out of the corner of my eye, looked intriguing (e.g., programs from various Newbery Caldecott Banquets). My boy was able to simmer down in the craft room, where he made his own version of a Very Hungry Caterpillar out of tissue paper and (copious amounts of) glue.

“Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty rupees a cap!” Dorothy, we’re not in Estonia anymore. The Caps for Sale play started by setting Esphyr Slobodkina’s classic in India. After the peddler reclaims his caps, the story is retold, this time as a Hollywood silent-movie. There are a few more versions; the most beautiful and impressive was an Indonesian shadow puppet show. The production (about 40 minutes long) held my rambunctious toddler’s attention, with zany puppets, costume changes, lots of running around, and oh so many different kinds of monkeys.

*Seriously! Here’s the list of things that we didn’t get to do: the Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss sculpture park (though we have been there before; it’s fun!), the Basketball Hall of Fame, Forest Park and Zoo, Amelia Park Children’s Museum. We did make it to the Children’s Museum at Holyoke, which was lots of fun but completely packed thanks to Highland Street Free Fun Fridays.

For more author/illustrator happenings near Boston, see our July children’s literature event round-up.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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