A bus driver appears on the scene and asks his audience to watch his bus while he tends to something off-page; he is very firm in his request for one favor: don’t let the Pigeon drive the bus! As soon as the bus driver leaves, we meet the Pigeon, who spends the rest of the book asking, pleading, cajoling, and throwing a temper tantrum as he attempts to get readers and listeners to allow him to drive the bus. Mo Willems, an Emmy-award winning animator who worked on Sesame Street, uses simple line drawings and a plain palette to bring the Pigeon to life and allows him exaggerated facial expressions and that communicates his increasing agitation. Mr. Willems also makes great use of the page edges to denote action taking place off-page, particularly during Pigeon’s meltdown, which takes up an entire spread and is indicative of the stomping and thrashing that accompanies many a meltdown. Willems uses a bold, simple typewriter font to communicate to audiences, except for Pigeon’s meltdown, where the typewriter font is enlarged, capitalized, bolded, and outlined in yellow to emphasize his tantrum. The simplicity of the art allows audiences to focus on the text and the Pigeon himself; preschoolers will recognize themselves in his behavior and laugh along with him.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! received Caldecott Honors in 2004 and is the first in the Pigeon series, including the titles Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, and The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! There are Pigeon board books with original content for younger readers, including The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! and The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is an interactive story, making it perfect for a story time. The Pigeon’s dialogue is meant to be responded to, and listeners can tell him “NO!” as he continues pleading to drive the bus. Like No, David!, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! can be used as part of a story time on following rules; it can also be a read-aloud that talks about feeling. Mo Willems’ website offers printable Pigeon and Duckling finger puppets and a printable picture of the month, both of which will work for a Pigeon craft.