Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book-Crush Wednesday (1)

I'm starting a new feature on my blog! I know, I know, you're dying with excitement.

I think one of the most important things a writer can do to become better is read. Read any and everything they can get their hands on. They should especially read good books. That's where this feature comes in.

Often, I read a great book, but I don't have a space to talk about it. I might mention it on Twitter, or casually say I read a great book in my Sunday Funday post. Or, once in awhile, I might find something the book is a great example of, and highlight the book by talking about that aspect of writing - I did that after I read Hex Hall and discussed the importance of using an authentic teen voice.

But sometimes I just want to talk about a great book. And from now on, that's what I'll use Wednesdays for. I know Wednesdays are "Waiting on Wednesday" in the book blogging world, but I will only be highlighting books I've read and loved, and want to share with you. Because books are amazing, and the truly great ones make me want to be a better writer.

I'll be focusing on kidlit books - everything from chapter books right up through MG and YA - but it's possible that the occasional adult book might pop in. I can't be sure. It might happen. I'm not making any promises.

OK, down to business...or the fun stuff :)

My first book-crush is on a picture book! I started reading picture books in preparation for my master's program in creative writing, and let me tell you, they are awesome. While I was looking through the PB section in Borders the other day, a particular book cover caught my eye. The book wasn't on my list of 100 picture books, but something about the book spoke to me, so I pulled it off the shelf to read anyway. And I am so, so glad I did.

The book was The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems, and from the very first page I was totally sucked in. I couldn't take the smile off my face. The book is about a pigeon who wants a puppy, has dreamt of having one his whole life. He tries to convince you that it's the best thing for him, but what happens when he gets his wish? Hilarity.

I loved the book so much that I went back to the display and saw that there was a whole series of pigeon books - including a Caldecott for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! There's The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog and Don't Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late! and The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! I enjoyed each book as much as I enjoyed the first, and in those few minutes spent reading the picture books, I became an instant Mo Willems fan. (And I knew what I would be getting for my brother, who is expecting his first son in a few months.)

The pigeon is sassy and fun and temperamental, but in the end he always does the right thing. He dreams big and is funny and tries to get his way. I love him.

And the artwork! It's deceptively simple. Don't let the thick black lines and clean background fool you - the emotion Willems puts into the drawings is incredible. Even if you took the words out of the books, I think it would still be perfectly clear exactly what the pigeon was trying to say. Take a look at this artwork from Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and you'll see exactly what I mean:
That conspiratorial whisper in the second panel, the pouting eyes in panel 5, the pleading look in the seventh picture - it's so simple and yet so effective. It communicates clearly to children and yet fills people like me, a 25-year-old childless woman, with joy.

So if you know any children, or even if you don't, I definitely suggest looking into the pigeon books. And the best part of all? The Pigeon is on Twitter. I mean, come on. All the cool kids are on Twitter, so the pigeon must be cool.


  1. Those titles alone are cracking me up!

  2. I love these books too! If you go online there are printable directions for drawing the pigeon, and resources for teachers. I used "The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog" as a mentor text and had students do descriptive writing describing their favorite candy-so "The Pigeon Finds a Snickers" etc. They loved it and had a great time drawing the pigeon.

  3. When I first read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to my kidlet, we both fell in love too. I adore those books!

  4. My daughter is also in major love with the pigeon. The range of emotion Willems can achieve with the slightest turn of his pen is quite impressive.

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  6. OMG, how cute!! Must get this for my four year old. I love this feature, Heather! Another picture book I loved is called Chicken Butt by Erica Perl. So funny. My 4 year old loves it and has memorized the whole thing. Even after a hundred reads, she cracks up as if it were the first time through.

  7. I love Pigeon. He might be one of my favorite characters ever!

  8. Aw, I've never seen this book. I'm going to have to get a copy for my goddaughter. :)

  9. I love the Pigeon books - good to know he's on Twitter! I'm not a huge picture book reader, but please please please read Babushka Baba Yaga and tell me if I only love it because my mom told me to or if it's as amazing as I think!

  10. The Pigeon books are a huge hit at our house. Especially Don't Let the Penguin Drive the Bus. I had no idea the Penguin was on Twitter. That is awesome and Mo Willems is a rock star.

  11. Doh. I said penguin. *signs L on forehead*

  12. I'm so going to recommend these to my baby cousins, they would adore this! And I have an award over at my blog for you.

  13. Yay Pigeon! I love these books, I love when I come across one in my classes, and they will definately be in my classroom. I dig Mo Willems in general. He had a cartoon on Cartoon Network a few years ago called Sheep in the Big City, also hilarious.

  14. Aw how fun! And I love the new feature - very cool!


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