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Puppy Love with a Twist! A Top 20 Book of the Year!,
This review is from: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy (Hardcover)
Animals don't get much more emotional than Pigeon; this bird makes manipulation fun! He (Pigeon could be a she, but I'll use the male pronoun here) postures, poses, plays coy, makes these goo-goo eyes at you, and says -- unknowingly--the most preposterous things, all because he REALLY wants a puppy.
Mo Willems, the master of simplicity, conveys all the avian non-verbals with eyeball placement, stance, two wings (acting as arms) and tiny legs, eyelids, and just a few lines to suggest motion. With those simple elements, Willems creates an absolutely adorable bird, in part I suspect because his still growing body, and the transparency of emotion reminds us of our own youngsters.
Pigeon's verbal tactics complement his physical melodramatics. Pigeon vacillates between coy, indirect pleas, and foot-stomping demands, switching from one emotion to another in split seconds! Pigeon directly address the reader, emotionally involving the audience in an intimate, just-between-you-and-me tone. For example, you or your youngster may be quite familiar with THE PROMISE:
"Oh, don't worry. I'll take care of it. I promise I'll water it once a month."
Another favorite is THE GUILT TRIP:
"Oh... I get it. You don't want me to be happy, do you?" You don't want me to take a piggy back ride on my puppy...!"
Pigeon's pleas are funny because his bargaining is so obvious, his facts so wrong, his emotions so labile, and the purity of his expression so fresh and loveable. Willems captures all of this in a style that follows Poe's dictum that every element in a story should be there for a reason. The story has a socko surprise ending: The puppy finally arrives, however, Pigeon discovers it's a BIG dog, and he is aghast! As fast as you can say "...That wet nose! The slobber! The claws!," pigeon changes his mind--now he's all sincerely lovelorn (hearts surround his words) over getting a walrus! The endpapers show a crate addressed to "The Pigeon" containing "ONE WALRUS."
Perhaps like no one else working in kids' picture books, Willems little gems speak directly to small kids, and bring a twinkle of recognition to adults. They're clever, knowing, and extremely funny. By the way, Willems' extraordinary talent has not gone unnoticed, his books have won two Caldecott honors, and his writing for "Sesame Street" earned him six Emmys. He's an all-time favorite, and your young toddler to kindergarten-age kid will love any and all of Willems' work. You will too!