Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: A book review

Natalie Moutafis found a fun - and noisy - way to introduce philosophical concepts to young children with Mo Willems' award-winning book.

This book from New York Times bestseller author and illustrator Mo Willems is a fun and engaging picture book about, as the title suggests, not letting a pigeon drive the bus.

It can be read just as it is intended – a story about not letting the pigeon drive the bus. But I found myself using it in another way to introduce the concepts of persuasion and responsibility.

Reading it through the first few times my 3.5-year-old was giggling and shaking his head ‘no’ along with the storyline.  On further readings, I was able to pose the questions in different tones and relate it back to scenarios he’d experienced at home or at our early learning centre.

When reading the pages where the pigeon uses a variety of different tactics to try to convince the reader to let it drive the bus, it’s giving us the opportunity to bridge such topics as consent.

Or who to trust while posing open-ended questions to him such as ‘what would you do if…’  or ‘can you think of a time when…’ without it being a scary topic or feel like a lecture from boring old Mum and Dad.

I adore this book for its simple yet humorous illustrations, the way it captivates children of all ages (even the 1.5-year-old is charmed by it), and how it so easily allows us to have engaging philosophical conversations.

I can keep this just for a fun and silly storytime where I know my kids are going to start shouting ‘no!’ with more and more enthusiasm as I ask if the pigeon can drive ‘just to the corner and back’. And I can also use it to help them understand how their choices will affect the outcome of a situation.

I would highly recommend this book to any parent or carer looking for ways to introduce philosophical conversation and rational thinking without it being heavy-handed, or simply wanting an entertaining book to read together – perhaps not before bed if you don’t want them too excited with shouting ‘no!’ as you read it.

This is the next in a series of reviews of children’s books, both new and released in recent times.

About the book

Mo Willems is a three-time Caldecott Honor winner for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, published by Walker Books Australia, RRP $16.99

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