Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! – Mo Willems

More in the Series – The Pigeon
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

Neither of us thought this one was quite as wonderful as the first one, but it is still pretty awesome. This time, the pigeon is trying to avoid going to sleep, and using all those classic kid techniques to achieve his goal of staying up late, while clearly getting more and more tired.

Like the first book, the pigeon holds one half of a conversation that he’s having with the reader. C got way more into it this time, I think probably because the format was familiar. “No! No! Go to sleep!” It was cute. 🙂

Alas, the only human in this book is a white dude, so it gets absolutely no points in the diversity sweepstakes, but it is still a pretty nifty book, dealing with a situation that is probably fairly universal to any parent of a small rambunctious child with a case of FOMO.

I love the interactivity. This will come as no surprise to any regular reader. I am a huge fan of books that require the reader to engage, and this one does so very well. The pigeon is naughty but likable, and when he eventually does go to sleep it is still protesting his “not tired” status, much like my kid does.

We both enjoyed reading it. Good stuff.

 

The Moon and Farmer McPhee – Margaret Mahy/David Elliot

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

As a kiddielit geek living in NZ you’d be hard pressed to find a combo that gives me as much joy as Mahy/Elliot. And I was pretty pleased that the book lived up to my expectations.

It’s a story about finding the small joys in life. Farmer McPhee sort of plods through his days, doing what needs to be done, but never “frisking”. He works too hard, and his life has not enough joy in it. So the animals on his farm resolve to do something about this – to get him to notice the moon and beauty and mystery. They have a big late at night frolic in the moonlight and wake him up. He is, of course, grumpy as hell about it, and resists their suggestions that he embrace the frisk. But eventually the moon wins him over and life is full of joy and dancing. Huzzah!

As far as our metrics go, there’s nothing here – there is one human character and he is very much a white dude. So it gets no points for Bechdel or any kind of diversity.

It’s a great book though. Apart from just being an awesome story, it has pages with holes for peeping into and folded pages that allow you to open doors and look through things. I love these kind of interactive touches.

And I love the basic ideology that life is more than work, that you have to stop on occasion and dance beneath the full moon. 😉

C obviously loved this book, since he picked it as his favourite (and with no hesitation at all). I suspect a lot of that had to do with the barn doors that open and so forth – he shares my love for these things – but some had to do with it just being an awesome story. 🙂

Read it. It’s neat.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

This book is absolutely wonderful. Kids love to say “no”, I have discovered, and this book gives them the perfect excuse to do so. You are told, at the start, not to let the pigeon drive the bus. And then the pigeon proceeds to try to convince you otherwise, and you are compelled to refuse throughout!

It is so much fun, guys. 🙂 C and I had a ball, working our way through it, him saying no to the pigeon at every turn. I particularly like that the pigeon uses the exact sorts of negotiating tactics that 5 yr olds tend to use. 😉 There’s something cool and empowering about putting a kid in that position.

Of course, the only characters are the pigeon and the bus driver, so it gets no points for Bechdel or diversity, but I would still recommend this book. It is very cleverly constructed, and the more I think about it, the more I think it is doing something really quite subversive – putting a child on the other side of the authority line to where they usually are.

Such a simple concept, but so much fun to read. Plus it gets points for being interactive, which you know I always love.

Definitely get your hands on this one.

Tap the Magic Tree – Christie Matheson

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

 

There’s no real way to score this one, since the only “character” is the magic tree. It’s a really fun book though. It’s one of those interactive books where each page has an instruction that has an effect on the tree in question. Tapping it makes the leaves grow, rubbing the trunk makes it begin to flower, and so forth.

It takes you through a full seasonal cycle, green leaves transforming into blossoms, transforming into apples, then the leaves go red and fall off and the snow comes.

There is a squirrel and a little bird family, but this book kind of sits completely outside of what we’re doing here. It’s very simple, awesomely interactive, fun to read together.

So I don’t have a lot to say about it really. I still prefer Henri Tullet’s “Press Here”, but this is pretty cute.

C obviously loved it, because he picked it as his favourite (and it was a good week – there were at least three books seriously in the running), and as you probably know by now, I have a real love for interactive books.

So yeah, check it out. 🙂

Good Dog, Carl – Alexandra Day

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

 

This is a really great little book, especially if you have a fondness for dogs. Carl is left to take care of the baby while the mother is out. He and the baby engage in a variety of adventures and shenanigans, including raiding the fridge for treats and sliding the baby down the laundry chute. Then Carl tidies everything up and drops the baby back in its cot just in time for Mom to come home to a clean and tidy house, oblivious to their adventures.

There is almost no text, since the bulk of the story involves a pre-verbal baby and a dog. I’m a fan, as you probably know by now, of books that require active engagement, and relying on pictures is a good way to do this. C and I had fun talking about what they were getting up to and what might come next.

Of course, that also makes a Bechdel pass impossible, and with only two humans, there wasn’t much room for any kind of variety of character. So in terms of metrics it doesn’t really do well. Nevertheless, I think this is an awesome little book. I love the simple relationship between the dog and the baby, and the fact that they’re sort of “in on it” together. It was a fun book to read with C. He really enjoyed it.

Good stuff.


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Window – Jeannie Baker

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

I do have a love for picture books that have no written text. There is something about the way you engage with them – especially when reading them with small children that is quite unique and very enjoyable. Studying the images, looking for clues, reading the story by interpreting what you’re seeing – I feel like all of that is good exercise for children, and also means constructing the story in a more active, somehow less linear way. It’s fun.

It does however make passing the Bechdel more or less impossible, though this book is seen through the eyes of a boy anyway, so it probably wouldn’t have passed. The images show exactly two people who are obviously people of colour in the whole book, so while I did give it this point, it is still a fairly white-washed world we are being presented.

Nevertheless, it’s a neat book. It has a pretty clear agenda to do with appreciating how much impact we humans have on our environments. There is a clear ideological standpoint here to do with urbanisation and the destruction of wild areas and how that’s bad. I don’t disagree, but I’ve never been a fan of force-feeding ideology, even ones I agree with.

Still, the book is very cleverly constructed – each double spread looks out of the same window of the same house as a boy grows from babyhood to adulthood and moves out. We see the landscape outside of the window change, moving from bush to town. The boy’s interests change as he grows, until eventually on the last spread we see his new, adult window in what we must assume is his new house, as he holds his own new baby in his arms, and looks out, once again, at native bush.

The message is there and clear (to me, anyway), but C didn’t really get the environmental thing from it. He was interested in the things that stayed the same. He wanted to find the boy’s aging cat in each image. He went looking for cool things to look at, and words to read on the walls and the boy’s birthday cards. (This is probably because knowing how to read is still novel and exciting to him. 🙂 )

There is something cool about that kind of discovery, and while I found the message a bit unsubtle (I like ideology to be subtle), I still think it’s a book worth looking for. There is a lot going on there, and it is quite effective.

Pancakes for Findus – Sven Nordqvist

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 2 points

No Bechdel pass here – no female characters at all apart from a couple of village women in the pictures none of whom are even mentioned in the text, and there really isn’t any diversity either.

I’ve given it two discretionary points though. The first is because this definitely has that sense of being a European folktale, and while my diversity points are more for things like people of colour, or LGBTQ characters, and so forth, I think there is definitely something to be said for a slightly different European approach. The original book is in Swedish, and honestly I am not even sure how freely available the English translation is, or if it’s in our library here only because we’re lucky enough to live in the hometown of Gecko Press. (And yeah, I’m going to do a little plug here – you should follow that link, they do awesome work.) But it’s always a good thing, in my not-so-humble opinion, to expose kids to stories from all over the world. Read widely, is my philosophy.

The second one is because of the illustrations. This is one of those books that is absolutely made by the illustrations. We got several pages in before we realised how much we’d been missing, and just how many secret neat little easter eggs are in the pictures of this book. At which point we went back to the beginning and started again, looking closer this time. And that, in itself, is a valuable thing – hey we missed stuff because we weren’t paying attention, let’s go back and look again. What a life lesson, right?

The story is a relatively simple one in the tradition of “The House that Jack Built”. In order to make the birthday pancakes, they have to complete a series of tasks, each one dominoing into the next. It would be fun and entertaining simply as is. But when you combine that with the complexity of the illustrations, and all the little extra visuals stories going on there, it really does become an awesome reading experience.

So despite its low scores when it comes to diversity and so forth, I’d still highly recommend this book. It’s a treasure. I may actually have to buy a copy for us.