Brooklyn Book Festival Names Mo Willems ‘Best of Brooklyn’

By Concepción de León

Image“Brooklyn is where I found the Pigeons and Knuffle Bunnies that were to become my muses,” said the children’s book author Mo Willems, winner of this year’s Best of Brooklyn award from the Brooklyn Book Festival.
“Brooklyn is where I found the Pigeons and Knuffle Bunnies that were to become my muses,” said the children’s book author Mo Willems, winner of this year’s Best of Brooklyn award from the Brooklyn Book Festival.CreditCreditAndrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Summer hasn’t (officially) started yet, but the literary world is already revving up for September: Publishing houses have started sending out their fall releases, and in New York, the Brooklyn Book Festival, one of the city’s largest book events, is assembling this year’s roster.

Mira Jacob, Rebecca Traister, N. K. Jemisin and Meg Wolitzer are among the more than 150 writers confirmed to attend the festival, which runs Sept. 16-23. That number is sure to balloon by the end of the summer; last year, more than 300 authors participated. The event includes a full day of adult programming and another for children.

Mo Willems is this year’s winner of the Best of Brooklyn award, which is presented annually to a writer who “exemplifies or speaks to the spirit of Brooklyn.” Willems is the first picture-book author to receive the award and joins such previous winners as Jacqueline Woodson, Colson Whitehead and James McBride.

Willems, the Caldecott-winning author of books like “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” was one of the writers who “jumped right on board” when the Brooklyn Book Festival began in 2006, Liz Koch, one of the festival’s co-producers, said.

“This year, with the fifth anniversary of our Children’s Day, we felt like it would be a wonderful moment to celebrate an iconic children’s book author,” Ms. Koch said, adding that it was also a way of thanking him for his support.

“Brooklyn is where I found the Pigeons and Knuffle Bunnies that were to become my muses,” Willems said in a statement, “as well as the community of writers, thinkers and doers that would excite and challenge me to do my best work.”

The festival poster, which will be revealed in early July, will be designed by the children’s book illustrator Raúl Colón.

Nearly 200 events will take place during the festival and across all five boroughs of New York City, some dealing with issues such as climate change, activism, sexuality, race and immigration, said Carolyn Greer, who produces the festival’s nonfiction content. The events outside Brooklyn, which will take place in bookstores, parks, bars, canoes and libraries, are meant to reach people who “don’t leave their neighborhoods,” Ms. Greer said.