Prather’s Pick: Back to school with Pigeon
In 2009, Mo Willems wrote and illustrated his first picture book about a pigeon — not just any pigeon but one that wants things and is persistent about getting them. He isn’t shy about throwing a fit or asking the reader to help him, either. Willems uses simple drawings in his illustrations that depict one side of the pigeon and one big eye, but it’s very clear what the pigeon is thinking.
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” the debut book in what has turned out to be a series, was inducted into the Picture Book Hall of Fame in 2009. Willems’ most recent book in the series, “The Pigeon Has to Go to School,” is this week’s Prather’s Pick.
In the story, Pigeon has found out that he has to go to school, and he doesn’t want to go.
“I already know how to spel!” he says. He claims that he already knows everything and challenges the reader to ask him a question.
Boy, Pigeon has himself worked up. What if he doesn’t like school? What if he really doesn’t like school? What if he really, really doesn’t like school?
Besides that, what if there’s math at school — or numbers? What if the finger paint sticks to his feathers? The backpack might be heavy, and what if the other birds don’t like him? Besides, he has only one eye to read with.
Pigeon admits that he’s scared. (There’s a tiny drawing of him in a corner of the page.) Finally he says what’s probably bothering him the most: “The unknown stresses me out, dude.”
But then Pigeon wonders about how he will get to school, and when he finds out…
Pigeon is probably voicing what lots of other little kids worry about when they’re about to go to school so I think parents and teachers might use this book for back-to-school. As with all of the pigeon books, it’s a great “discussion starter.”
This week’s book is fun all the way through. On the credit page at the beginning of the book, under 2019, the copyright date, the adult reader finds the following: “Published near a very lovely bagel shop on the upper West Side. My Uncle Herb goes there all the time.”
Other information about the book on this page lets the reader know that the book was set in “pigeon scratch” and it has “feathery binding.” And there’s a lot more! Check it out. (There’s another more serious credit page at the end of the book.)
Mo Willems has written lots of other books for which he has been awarded three Caldecott Honors for picture books, two Theodor Seuss Geisel Medals, and five Geisel Honors. He was writer and animator on Sesame Street where he received six Emmy Awards. One of his recent picture books is “Because.”
This book is a must read! It is published by Hyperion Book for Children (and Pigeons), an imprint of Disney Book Group. The book is $16.95 in hardcover. I found my book at City Market in Craig, but I’ll bet Downtown Books would order it for you.