Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! By Mo Willems. Illustrated by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books For Children, 2006. 34 pages. $15.99.
Isn’t it funny how as a child you always begged to stay up late and now as an adult, an early bedtime is all you can dream about? In the multi-award-winning picture book “Don’t let the Pigeon Stay Up Late,” Mo Willems adds to his popular and humorous pigeon character’s repertoire of stubborn, determined and childish behavior. The story begins with the male bus driver from a previous pigeon book asking the reader to make sure that the pigeon does not stay up late. However, the pigeon does not want to go to bed yet, so he tries to convince the reader to let him stay up longer by expressing multiple excuses and reasons to show he is not tired yet.
This elementary picture book is attention grabbing for children in PreK-2nd grade. The children can easily relate to the stereotypical childish behavior of an over tired character complaining about bed time. Throughout the story, there is a comic-book like feeling due to its skillfully crafted speech bubbles, use of punctuation, and onomatopoeias. These different features help demonstrate the pigeon’s childish and strong personality that Willems said was influenced by his experience from living in New York City (Russo, 2016). Within the speech bubbles, the word choice portrays a very simple and conversational tone by using words like “c’mon,” and “y’know,” to talk to the reader. Although these words are sometimes considered slang, it helps create a conversational tone between the pigeon and reader, which encourages engagement and interaction while reading. When Mo Willems has the pigeon ask questions like “C’mon! What’s five minutes in the grand scheme of things!?” children can’t help but want to answer. Another way Mo Willems emphasizes tone, is by changing the font and text structure to illuminate the mood and intonation of the pigeon. Willems alternates between bold letters, all capital letters (TIRED), and repetition of letters (ex. “pleeeeeaaassse”), to emphasize the pigeon’s delivery to the reader. For example, after the pigeon tries to hide a yawn, he screams “I’M NOT TIRED!” in all bold, capital letters, with an exceptionally large font size across two pages. This differentiation of text allows the reader to understand the pigeon’s voice and emotional development.
The illustrations of a crayon-outlined dramatic pigeon on a soothing colored background help the reader build his or her visual literacy skills, make the reader want to read the book again, create meaning, and extend the text. Mo Willems used different facial expressions and body language to express the pigeon’s excitement, stubbornness, attitude, and tiredness, so the reader is easily able to understand how the character is feeling and the characters voice. Although there is a lack of setting in this book, the blankness gives readers the opportunity to use his or her individual imagination to relate to the story. When the characters suggest analogous situations such as brushing one’s teeth, watching television or eating hot dogs, the lack of setting allows readers to picture themselves and the pigeon in their own homes or create their own atmospheres. In addition to all of the benefits from the illustrations, this book can be used as a bedtime story or classroom read aloud to help teach children about tone, expression and persuasion. Within a classroom this is a great model text when students are learning how to write persuasive letters or texts.
In addition to the funny book, there are different forms of media that help the reader build a stronger rapport with all of Willem’s series and characters. There is a website, pigeonpresents.com, that includes links to YouTube videos of all the Pigeon and other Mo Willems books, biographies about the characters in various series, apps with games, and videos related to the Pigeon stories. Parents and children can also use YouTube to find an abundance of read alouds by various young and adult readers. Furthermore, Mo Willems uses twitter to communicate with her readers. He tweets about various topics such as different upcoming events regarding his books like plays and opportunities to “meet” the characters, posts different drawings he creates, and different news articles regarding the love of reading.
Russo, M. (2016, March 17). Mo Willems and the Art of the Children’s Book. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/arts/design/mo-willems-and-the-art-of-the-childrens-book.html?_r=1