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The Pigeon Needs a Bath!

I loved the first ‘pigeon’ book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and enjoyed the second, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, but this, if lacking in the same punch of originality you got with the first, possibly tops the lot.

The premise is the same: the bus driver/human figure asks the reader to help with the errant pigeon, and the book consists of the pigeon’s half of the conversation.  The reader (or listener, if articulate enough) has to provide the other half of the dialogue.  For a start, as I think I said on my previous review, this is a fantastic concept for a children’s book.  It’s interactive in the best sense of the word and encourages speech, develops persuasive language skills, requires tactical thinking, and on top of that adds an element of citizenship teaching – don’t be as obstructive as the pigeon is!  In this particular case the pigeon is filthy and needs a bath and comes up with the usual plethora of excuses as to why he doesn’t need one. “Clean, dirty – they’re just words, right?”

There are great moments during this excuse phase, one of which is the way that at every turn he realises his arguments are flawed.  The flies he claims are “purely coincidental” depart with an indignant instruction to “take a bath dude” (do it in a voice like you’ve swallowed helium and it’s even funnier). He even turns on the reader to deflect the issue and asks “When did you last have a bath?” only to coo despondently “Oh.  That was pretty recently.”  The quality of the language and the use of common phrases is even better than usual in this one and it is a real pleasure to read.

However the climax of this book is the inspired section when, having finally agreed to the bath, the pigeon tries to make it to his liking.  It’s too hot.  Too cold.  Too lukewarm.  Too few toys.  Too many toys.  Too hot. Read punctuated with the ‘pssst’ of the bath tap this reduces even my six-year-old to hysterical giggles.

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If I have a criticism, it’s that the replies the pigeon requires are more complicated than the original.  In the Bus version, usually only ‘No’ is required to shut the pigeon up, and this can be understood and said by children of a very young age.  In this you actually need to understand what the pigeon is implying and ‘no’ is not an adequate or appropriate response.  It means that to get most out of the book the adult reader needs to do more on both sides of the conversation and model possible answers to the child.  It’s not a bad thing, but it is an area in which this book falls down slightly compared to previous incarnations.

We’ve only had this a week and we’ve had to read it at least once every day, which is no hardship whatsoever.  It’s a great one to share, a great one to encourage children to speak and argue with the pigeon, and genuinely very, very funny.  Just go and buy it.  Go on.

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Spells

This is an unusual and interesting book that may attract children who are not normally into reading.

A frog finds a book of spells, torn into pieces.  First he imagines it is about boats, and then about castles (an excuse for some beautiful illustrations made of cut-out pieces of spell-book) and that he can kiss a beautiful princess.

Eventually he decides to try to find a spell to turn himself into a handsome prince.  At this point the pages in the book split into horizontal halves such that they can be mix and matched in different ways.  On the left is the pieced-together spell, and on the right are the top and bottom halves of particular animals, together with part of their names.

Some bizarre and entertaining creatures can be made, such as the Fabbit, the Snewt, the Brog, the Rake… and eventually the various combinations that lead to the Prince.  The pages can be turned and combined in any order, so young children could have some autonomy here which may well suit those who usually dislike being read to.  The large letters and the portmanteau creature names are an excellent way of breaking down language as an introduction for reading – although it is annoying that they are all in capitals which makes it much harder for children to read themselves.

The Prince is comically bare-bottomed, and although he does find his princess there is a little twist in the tale at the end.

As usual Emily Gravett’s illustrations are delicate, stylish and beautiful, and although this story lacks a strong narrative and as a result any sense of real purpose, it is nonetheless fun to read and experience and is an excellent book for discussing and interacting over.  A quirky little treat.