A Definitive Ranking of All 6 of The Pigeon Books
Mo Willems’ Pigeon may be the most iconic new character in children’s literature this century. He even sneaks into other books and has his own twitter account. In many ways, The Pigeon mirrors characters like Daffy Duck, George Costanza, and Michael Scott who are known for being self-centered and prone to emotional outbursts when things don’t go their way. (of course, this is how many young children act as well) As a Pre-K teacher, I read The Pigeon book series all the time because of all the great qualities the books possess. The call and response nature of the books keeps the children engaged. The books teach early literacy concepts such as tone of voice, exclamation points, question marks, and with repeated reading early sight word recognition. In addition, the books are a great way to learn and discuss emotions and even have discussions about rules and morality. Want to have a heated debate with young children, ask them whether you would let the Pigeon drive the bus and why? You will get some heated debates on both sides. (On a side note, it would be interesting to do a longitudinal study looking which students would or would not let the Pigeon drive the bus and see how that correlates to their future political ideology: my theory is that liberals and libertarians would let the Pigeon drive the bus and conservatives would not)
But which Pigeon book is the best? This post will be a ranking of the core Pigeon books (not the board books for toddlers) from least best to best. Note, the term “least best” because all of these books are great. Ok, here are the rankings.
6. The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (2012)
This book features Duckling who we met before in The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog; The Duckling is an excellent manipulator who knows how to scheme to get what he wants. The books provides many funny moments including a kina twist ending, but lacks any call and response elements from the children during group reading which is one of the reasons these books are great and interactive for group reading.
5. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! (2004)
Here we first meet The Duckling who in many ways can be a stand in for a young sibling, cousin, friend who is wise beyond their years and manipulative. When The Pigeon eventually relents and shares the hot dog it is both a testament of The Ducklings manipulation skills but also the fact that the selfish pigeon does indeed have a heart and empathy too.
4. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! (2014)
Sometimes the thing you don’t want, turns out precisely to be what you both need and will enjoy. (that sentence was not as elegant as The Rolling Stone lyrics) In this case, The Pigeon argues he does not need a bath even after the flies come by and tell him he stinks which usually draws raucous laughter in my class. The pigeon asking “when was the last time you had a bath?!” is another line that elicits a lot of interaction during read alouds with some kids shouting out responses,
3. Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! (2006)
One of the subtle cool things in this book is how the backgrounds of the pages get progressively darker as The Pigeon protests the need for him to get some sleep. The call back to both The Pigeon Wants a Hot Dog and Knuffle Bunny in the Pigeon dream when he eventually falls asleep is also pretty cool.
2. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (2008)
Sometimes when you get what you want, it is scary and turns out not to be what you wanted after all. That is one of the morals of this hilarious book. A favorite laugh line in my class is when the Pigeon promises to water the puppy and give it plenty of sun. The initial scream in terror when The Pigeon sees the puppy up close is fun to scream read to the class.
1. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2003)
The original is still the best. Right from the start we have the bus driver and then The Pigeon breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the reader. The book features my favorite Pigeon freak out page when he screams “Let Me Drive The Bus!!!” in various positions mimicking the contortions a toddler might make while throwing a fit. In the end “the man” stops the pigeon from driving the bus, but he just moves on to the next dream of driving a truck. A good message for us all; always find something new to dream of.