KidLit / Reviews

The Pigeon Wants You To Read This Post!

I had a busy, quiet Thursday evening this week.

As it turns out, most kids at Homework Hub didn’t have school on Friday due to the EID holiday, so I

  • Played with math flash cards. I also explained the game of 24 to S****, who is way too good at her times tables and needs something more complicated if she wants to “race” against other kids.
  • Let a kid teach ME for a change. He taught me to draw, which was awesome and made me think about “Drawing from Memory”. I hope he becomes an artist; he kept telling me about how everything was possible in a drawing.
  • Felt great. At least two kids asked me how long I was going to be at the library and how often I volunteered there. The one who taught me to draw said he’d make sure to bring a library book he has out about drawing to show me the next time I’m volunteering.
  • Read some picture books!

I was excited to find some “Pigeon” books by Mo Willems at the library.

I had only read one Mo Willems book (“We Are in a Book!”) previously, but I watch “Codename: Kids Next Door” more frequently than most adults without children (Willems is a creator/writer) and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!” is on Sarah Park‘s reading list for her current Library Materials for Children class. I am not in the class, but

  • I intend to take this (or a similar) class before I graduate from St. Kates
  • I added all of the books from her current course to my Goodreads to-read list :p
Cover Image for "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!"

pigeonpresents.com

 

Unfortunately, that particular pigeon book was not on the shelf, but these were:

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems.
New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2008.
ISBN 978-1423109600

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems.
New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2003.
ISBN 978-0786819881

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems.
New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2004.
ISBN 978-0786818693

I immediately noticed similarities between “We Are In A Book!” and these new (to me) Willems titles, namely in that these books speak directly to the reader and encourage audible argument and other interaction with the text.

To the best of my knowledge, this is fairly unique but well-suited to the world of children’s books – children’s television shows have used direct address and anticipation of audience response for a while (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood spoke to me when I was growing up; I wrote “Blue’s Clues” in my notes on these books, which is an even better example) – why not books?

There is more room for conversation as well as over-excitement when reading a book. One can pause to laugh or think, to take his or her time to come up with the desired or an unanticipated response to the text, whereas if you miss a clue for a few seconds on “Blue’s Clues,” pretty soon it’ll be too late and you’ll hear television-produced child voices shouting for you: “A Clue! A Clue!”

I’m all for it. I read these books wishing I had a three-year-old in my lap to freak out.

With the addition of a new main character, The Duckling, “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!” uses less direct address and its appeal is slightly different than that of the other two Pigeon books, although the basic formula for each Pigeon book is essentially the same.

Here’s the basic formula, and how “Hot Dog” is different:

  1. The pigeon wants something.
  2. He can’t have it.In both “Bus” and “Puppy” books, this is because the reader does not allow him permission. In “Hot Dog,” it is because The Duckling is an obstacle to the Pigeon’s ultimate goal, ie, to eat the hot dog. 

    Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (inside book image)

    The Pigeon pleads for your permission in “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” (pigeonpresents.com)

  3. The pigeon gets upset. Really upset.
  4. The book finds resolve somehow. In “Puppy,” the pigeon gets what he wants only to realize he doesn’t want it, and in “Bus” he never gets to see his goal fully realized. In both, the book ultimately ends through the pigeon’s own distraction, and with it the possibility for the book to begin again. Think of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or any other cyclical children’s book.

The resolve of “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!” is what makes this book stand out from the others. The Pigeon gets what he wants. The Pigeon learns something (namely, sharing), which one can pretty easily argue he does not in the other titles.

 

Maybe he learns something in the other books, but only for a moment before he forgets it. These books gain their merit not from the wisdom of the Pigeon, but of the readers, who learn his lessons for him, and teach them to him again and again (and again).

“The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!” ends calmly, happily, with food and friends. Very different from the spastic movement towards a new obsession or goal at the end of both “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!” and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” which remind me of an only child (I am one, so I’m only pointing fingers at myself here), while “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!,” might be interpreted as “The Only Child has to Share and Make Friends.”

Cover image: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!

pigeonpresents.com

I like them all. For joy’s sake, I think reading “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” might be my favorite.

In addition to the writing style, I love the drawings for these books. They are simple but show (and elicit?) a pretty wide range of feelings through

  • Intense facial and body expression. Amazingly impressive  for a two-dimensional Pigeon.
  • Perspective. When the Pigeon “gives up” and gets a bit sad, he takes up less room on the page, like he has physically and emotionally backed away from you)
  • Color. Each page or frame in the Pigeon books has a solid background color which shifts subtly (most of the time – his rages can be pretty abrupt) as his emotions change through the text.

I was planning on writing about the rest of my Thursday which was spent at the Graywolf Press Sneak Peak event at the Minneapolis Central Library, but it looks like that will have to wait for another day as

 

THE PIGEON WANTS ME TO GO TO BED!

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2 thoughts on “The Pigeon Wants You To Read This Post!

  1. Love it. It’s almost like your blog post–through teleporting osmosis–made me find and pick up “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” today at work. I don’t think I’ve read a children’s book in the past year until today :)

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