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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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Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

This is a highly original and extremely funny book by Mo Willems (see previous review of Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct).

The book is written in speech bubbles – a bus driver appears and asks the reader to mind the bus whilst he has to leave for a little while.  He makes one key stipulation: “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!”.  Almost immediately the pigeon appears, and sets out to convince you that he should, in fact, be allowed to drive the bus.  He tries every tactic he can think of – “I’ll be your best friend?” – until finally exploding in a spectacular avian tantrum: “LET ME DRIVE THE BUUUSSSS!”

The genius of this book lies in the interaction.  It is the child being read to who has to say ‘No, Pigeon, you can’t drive the bus!’, something that most vocal toddlers will love doing – even if they are just at the stage where they can shout ‘NO!’  And what is particularly clever is that it reflects the toddler’s typical behaviour to him or herself in a quietly negative light.  The child plays parent to the rebellious, manipulative pigeon, and cannot help but learn from him how not to behave.  Adults will also enjoy the well-worn phrases of childhood: “I never get to do ANYthing!”

This is both fun and funny, and the sulky pigeon is already a hugely popular character with those in the know.  A wonderful book for sharing and shouting about. And at.