Toddler Takeover this weekend at Alliance, High Museum

Mo Willems 1

Toddler Takeover is this weekend at the Woodrfuff Arts Center

(May 29–31), an arts festival for families and young children.

An arts festival designed for very young children, featuring performances of six original productions from the Alliance Theatre for the Very Young, the return of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Music for the Very Young, stroller tours and art-making at the High Museum of Art. Free for children age 5 and under, however a ticket purchase is required for all other guests. $30 adult day pass; $5 for big kid day pass (6 to 17 years old). Admission to “Knuffle Bunny” is included with the purchase of a Toddler Takeover day pass, but reservations are required and seats fill quickly. (3:30 p.m. May 30 and 1 and 3:30 p.m. May 31 are still available.) Get a Toddler Takeover day pass and reserve “Knuffle Bunny” tickets at Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St N.E., Atlanta. 404-733-5000,


Mo Willems has created wickedly clever and funny children’s stories featuring Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie, and the Pigeon who wants to drive a bus.

With simple yet expressive cartoon drawings, the award-winning children’s author and illustrator helps young readers grapple with questions even adults must face.

He begins every book with a question, the kind of big philosophical questions children as young as 5 years of age ponder — why are people mean? What is death? And, of course: Can I drive a bus?

The stories then develop with all sorts of hilarity: the pigeon who doesn’t want to go to sleep, and then dreams about a hot dog party; the pigeon who wants to drive the bus and offers up a deal: “I’ll tell you what. I’ll just steer.”

Willems’ wildly popular work is being featured this week at both the High Museum of Art and the Alliance Theatre.

The High is presenting the retrospective exhibit “Seriously Silly! The Art & Whimsy of Mo Willems.” The exhibit will feature 100-plus works — from preliminary drawings to completed illustrations — chronicling the past 12 years of Willems’ career, which includes more than 40 books for children and numerous literary awards. The exhibit, which opened May 23, will run through Jan. 10.

And, beginning Wednesday, the Alliance will stage Willems’ children’s production “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.” It will run until June 28.

This marks the first time the High and the Alliance have presented concurrent visual and performing arts presentations of an artist’s work. The shows featuring Willems also will be a major attraction of the Woodruff’s Toddler Takeover (May 29–31), an arts festival for families and young children. (See the information box.)

“I am excited by this idea of it really feeling like a party — the show and the exhibit happening all at once,” the Massachusetts-based author said in a recent phone interview.

Both events, he said, help nurture his ultimate goal for his books — to not merely be read, but to be used as a springboard for creative writing and drawing. He said he always tries to make the characters simple enough so children can copy them.

“I don’t want the books to simply be consumed,” said Willems, a three-time Caldecott Honor winner. “I want them to be played. I want people to be jazzed and create their own narrative. That is how these (books) stay alive.”

More about the events:

“Seriously Silly! The Art & Whimsy of Mo Willems.” Through Jan. 10. $12-$19.50. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m-9 p.m Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays. High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta.

“Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.” May 27-June 28. 11:45 a.m. Wednesdays; 10 and 11:45 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 1 and 3:30 p.m Saturdays and Sundays. There is only a 5 p.m. performance June 12. $15 adults; $8 children ages 6-17; free for children ages 5 and under. Combination tickets for both the Alliance musical and the exhibition at the High: $20.80 for adults, $10.40 for children ages 6-17, free for children ages 5 and under. The combo tickets are only available by calling the Woodruff Arts Center box office at 404-733-5000. Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-733-5000,

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