Great Illustrated Books

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

By Mo Willems

Hyperion Press, 2003
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 2-8
ISBN: 9780786819881

People look at this Caldecott Honor winner and scratch their heads. The story seems so elemental—a big-eyed light blue pigeon tries to persuade readers to let him drive the bus, even though the bus driver has warned us not to. When. it was first published, I read this wacky little easy-to-read number to my sister-in-law Ann Guthrie's preschoolers at the Antioch School in Yellow Springs, Ohio, one of the oldest preschools in the country. The three and four-year-olds went wild over it. "Hey, can I drive the bus," the gimlet-eyed blue pigeon asks them straight out. "NO!" they chimed. The persistent Pigeon, tries every angle possible, from whining to temper spells. The children talked back to the pigeon. They decided there was NO WAY they were going to let that pigeon drive that bus. No how. And aren't these same kids begging and pleading with their own authority figures to let them stay up late and do forbidden stuff? You might think they would empathize with the poor pigeon and cut him some slack, but it didn't happen. As the Pigeon says, "What's the big deal? It's just a bus." I've used this book with kids through high school, and the same thing happens—listeners interact with the book and with all its sequels.

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If you love this book, then try:

Cronin, Doreen. Duck for President. Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Cronin, Doreen. Giggle, Giggle, Quack. Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Hort, Lenny. The Seals on the Bus. Henry Holt, 2000.

Kovalski, Maryann. The Wheels on the Bus. Little, Brown, 1987.

Pinkwater, Daniel. Tooth-Gnasher Superflash. Macmillan, 1990.

Raffi. The Wheels on the Bus. Crown, 1988.

Rohmann, Eric. My Friend Rabbit. Roaring Brook, 2002.

Shannon, David. Duck on a Bike. Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2002.

Willems, Mo. Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. Hyperion, 2006.

Willems, Mo. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. Hyperion, 2004.

Willems, Mo. Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Hyperion, 2005.

Willems, Mo. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. Hyperion, 2004.

Zane, Alexander. The Wheels on the Race Car. Orchard, 2005.

Zelinsky, Paul. The Wheels on the Bus. Dutton, 1990.

Critics have said

A brilliantly simple book that is absolutely true to life, as anyone who interacts with an obdurate three-year-old can attest. In a plain palette, with childishly elemental line drawings, Willems has captured the essence of unreasonableness in the very young. The genius of this book is that the very young will actually recognize themselves in it.
School Library Journal
Willems is a professional animator, and each page has the feel of a perfectly frozen frame of cartoon footage--action, remarkable expression, and wild humor captured with just a few lines. Preschoolers will howl over the pigeon's dramatics, even as they recognize that he wheedles, blows up, and yearns to be powerful just like they do.