The latest of Mo Willems’ popular picture books about a wise-cracking pigeon has proven to be a highly timely publication, since it will fall close to a pivotal time in the lives of many children.
Formerly an Emmy-winning writer for Sesame Street during the ‘90s, Willems’ first book featuring the titular pigeon was 2003’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, which won the Caldecott Medal for that year and which even has its own range of merchandise courtesy of book-themed clothing and gift label Out of Print. Since then, the pigeon has featured in five other picture books, and this latest is the sixth in the series. Willems has written other books, such as Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Nanette’s Baguette and the Knuffle Bunny series.
In this particular story, the pigeon is indignant at the idea that he would have to go to school. He tries to come up with every reason possible not to – “Does school start in the morning? Because you know what I’m like in the morning.” “What if the teacher doesn’t like pigeons?” “What if I learn too much? My head might pop off!” Although his pleading ultimately proves ineffective, he voices a great many of the thoughts and apprehensions young children might have about starting school. He is, however, persuaded upon realising that he will get to travel there on a bus – which, as established in previous books, is his favourite form of transport. By the end he is sat in class amongst other birds, eagerly holding his wing up to answer questions. Equally, his inner monologue of repeated self-questioning throughout the book is another way in which he subtly manages to soothe his own fears about school and what it will bring.
As well as being funny, tongue in cheek and adorably illustrated, younger readers – particularly those beginning nursery or primary school for the first time – will enjoy relating to the pigeon and his fears about the beginning of a major life chapter.
The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! is available on 1st August, published by Walker Books.