I can unabashedly give this book a terrible review because it has been wildly popular for reasons unknown to me. If I had to speculate, I think the formulaic nature of books appeals very directly to parents, fitting the mold of ‘what a children’s book should be’ and capturing the attention of the child by allowing them to recognize a pattern that they can use to participate in the reading or their own imagined rereading or retelling. This formulaic and dramatically dull lyrical rendering of a picture book always reminds me of Robert Munsch, another wildly popular author who I dislike, for the most part.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! begins with a direct address to the reader, on the title page of the book;
Hi! I’m the bus driver. Listen, I’ve got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things for me until I get back? Thanks. Oh, and remember: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
The text then proceeds to illustrate the pigeon who begs, rationalizes, wheedles, and tries to deceive the reader into letting him drive the bus. Yes this is a very short summary, it is literally the only thing that happens in the entire book.
One of the many raving reviews, courtesy of Good Reads [click here for the link] claims, “… children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate.” But this isn’t a choose your own adventure story, thankfully. The book assumes the reader is saying no, you can’t drive the bus with each turn of the page that redundantly asks the reader to allow the pigeon to drive the bus. There is no choice, there is no real interaction. and there is no thought required.
This book is insufferably redundant. I’m all for minimalist but this is just laziness. It seems as if Willems put no effort into its concept, writing, or illustration. A cartoon duck against a monotone block of colour who repeats the same words over and over again asks nothing of the reader and gives nothing back in return. I can derive absolutely zero artistic merit from this book and can honestly say it is one of the worst I have ever read.