Book Review: “Opposites Abstract” by Mo Willems

If the name Mo Willems rings bells, odds are you have a child in your life who loves Elephant & Piggie, Pigeon, Unlimited Squirrels and all the other cartoony characters he’s famous for. But in his newest book release, titled Opposites Abstract, the artist and author strives for something a little more high concept. Inspired by his role as a Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, Opposites Abstract is certainly accessible for all ages but would be most appreciated by kids who are starting to learn about different types of art.



As the title suggests, the book is full of abstract opposites, with two variations on each piece of art. The cover splits two of the pieces in half, showcasing “Intentional” on top (each color follows a uniform line and is separated by a blank line) and “Accidental” on the bottom (the colors cross over one another and there’s no defining line between them). It retains Willems’ signature whimsy but gives up speech bubbles or characters, for that matter. For that reason, Opposites Abstract is likely to be a bigger hit with parents and teachers than it will be with kids, save for the most artistically inclined.

One way Mo Willems keeps the book very kid-friendly is with a palette of eye-catching primary colors. The text also asks kids to think about the pieces, asking “Is this Intentional?” and “Is this accidental?” rather than making a statement. What parents and art educators will love most about it is that it essentially trains a child’s brain to enter a museum and ask themselves questions about how the art they’re looking at makes them feel and why.

While the built-in audience for Mo Willems might not appreciate all the facets of Opposites Abstract, parents who love visiting art museums will find it to be a nice primer for their kids ahead of viewing the works of artists like Georgia O’Keeffe. I love the concept and execution and if nothing else, kids will be a little more in on the joke the next time they see Pixar’s Inside Out when Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong enter Abstract Thought. Opposites Abstract: Willems, Mo