At long last, the school bell tolls for Pigeon, despite his insistence that “I already know EVERYTHING!” But as longtime readers of Willems’s series know, there’s a little bird beneath all that bluster, and Pigeon soon reveals that school has turned him into a feather-covered bundle of anxieties. “What if the teacher doesn’t like pigeons?” he asks, his normally robust black pupil shrinking to a little dot of fear. As he thinks about learning math and the alphabet, wearing a hefty backpack, and meeting other birds, the strong black outlines that have always defined Willems’s beloved, kvetching protagonist turn ragged: “The unknown stresses me out, dude,” he confides. But wait—is that a school bus he gets to ride on? “Coming through!” he shouts. “The Pigeon HAS to go to school!” Ages 3–5. (July)
PreS-Gr 2—Willems's famed feathered protagonist faces the inevitable with a winning mix of chuckle-inducing bravado, honest emotion, and a child-grabbing point of view. The pigeon is not happy about the prospect of launching his educational career, flapping his wings in desperation as the book begins ("WAIT! Don't read that title!") and spouting a series of fervent objections that range from the familiar to the delightfully absurd: "Why do I have to go to school?" "I already know EVERYTHING!" "Does 'school' start in the morning? Because you know what I'm like in the morning! It is NOT pretty." "What if the teacher doesn't like pigeons?" "WHAT IF I LEARN TOO MUCH!?! My head might pop off." Utilizing muted monochromatic backdrops, the pages are dominated by the vividly drawn character, and his dramatic body language and ever-expressive single eye accentuate each and every comic beat. When the pigeon finally gets to the heart of the matter and reveals his true feelings ("I'm…scared"), he is drawn much smaller, with thinner lines and tighter body posture. Never fear, this lovable character works his way through his emotions (raising questions that parents can discuss with their own soon-to-be-students) and finishes on an upbeat note—total jubilation at his means of transportation: a school bus! VERDICT Deftly balancing genuine concerns with humor and buoyant reassurance, this irresistible offering starring a fan favorite is sure to become a first-day-of-school classic.—Joy Fleishhacker, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs
All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems' hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.
Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird's monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon's excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to "Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!") to fearing learning too much ("My head might pop off"), Pigeon's imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird's shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that "I'm… / scared." And Pigeon's eight-box rant about all the perils of school ("The unknown stresses me out, dude") is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don't yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon's last question is "Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!" Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon's reaction.
Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)