Don’t Let the Pigeon Miss This Exhibit!: Mo Willems at the Please Touch Museum
From Elephant & Piggie to the Pigeon, experience the world of Mo Willems in this fun, new exhibit!
Anyone who’s had small children has likely worn through a copy or two of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and other new classics by the author and illustrator Mo Willems. From the anxiety of Elephant Gerald to the hyper demands of the unhinged pigeon, the stories of Willems are favorites in so many families for allowing kids to experience the full range of emotions with playful humor and fun characters.
Now, your little ones can experience some of these stories in an interactive and sensory way at the Please Touch Museum’s newest special exhibit, “The Pigeon Comes to Philadelphia! A Mo Willems Exhibit” from June 4 through September 12.
“In a time when parents and families are looking for opportunities to reengage in community, we are thrilled to offer a whimsical exhibit centered around the playful characters of New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Mo Willems,” said Patricia D. Wellenbach, President and CEO of the Please Touch Museum.
If your kids are still enjoying his books (or are just nostalgic for them), they will love playing in the laundromat of Knufflebunny (and finding beloved characters amongst the clothes) and pretending to drive the bus that the titular Pigeon never could. Social-emotional concepts such as friendship and gratitude are also explored, especially with Elephant & Piggie’s “Thank-o-Rama” (inspired by the final book of their series). Kids are encouraged to spin a wheel to thank all the people (and characters) in their lives, and to write a note to add to the wall.
Games and activities inspired by the characters are located throughout the exhibit as well, including a “plinko” style game to give the Duckling a cookie, and another involving launching foam hot dogs at the Pigeon. Fans of the series will instantly recognize the relevance of both of these games. Other activities include making your own “Terrible Monster” with giant foam blocks, and dressing up Naked Mole Rat for a conveyor-belt fashion show.
If any of these characters are unfamiliar to you, head to the giant bus to find a reading nook packed with Willems’ books. It’s also a great place to take a seat and unwind from the technicolor whimsy of the rest of the exhibit.
Art and Art-Making
The exhibit also focuses on the process of creating art, animation, and characters. In one section, kids can spin cranks to activate flip-book style animation and watch the Pigeon physically overreact to various disappointments in his life. In another section, you can make Elephant and Piggie “dance” by changing the plates of an old-timey Praxinoscope and spinning it fast enough to fool the eye.
Throughout the room, original artwork from Willems’ familiar characters adorns the walls so you can see some of your favorite scenes get the gallery treatment. A lighted drawing table invites kids to try their hands at recreating their favorite characters, inspired by the work and technique of Willems. Wall graphics and video clips illuminate his process, and guide kids through drawing (much like his pandemic-era livestreams). Guests are invited to hang their creations on the art room’s wall, or take them home as a memento!
“The Pigeon Comes to Philadelphia! A Mo Willems Exhibit” will be at the Please Touch Museum, located at 4231 Avenue of the Republic in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park starting on June 4. The exhibit runs through September 12, and admission is included with regular museum admission, and as always is free for members.
In order to keep the PTM experience safe, capacity will be limited, and online reservations are required for your desired session. The museum is open Thursdays – Sundays with morning sessions (9 am – noon) and afternoon sessions (1:30 – 4:30 pm) with a midday closure for cleaning and sanitizing. Masks are required for all staff and all guests age 2 and up. Touchless hand sanitizing stations have also been installed throughout the museum.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.