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Literature / Pigeon Series

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The Pigeon series is a set of children's picture books by writer/illustrator Mo Willems (some of you might recognize him as creator of the Cartoon Network series Sheep in the Big City). The first book in the series, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, was released in 2003. In it, a bus driver who has to take a break asks the reader to watch the Pigeon, who then tries to finagle the reader into letting him drive the bus. Its runaway success spurred the release of other books, videos, and merchandise. There is even a musicaltour called simply "Pigeon", followed by the year of the tour (2013, 2014...), based on the book.


  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!
  • The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!
  • The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!
  • The Duckling Gets a Cookie?
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book!
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!
  • The Pigeon Needs a Bath!
  • The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!
  • The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!
  • Be the Bus: The Lost & Profound Wisdom of The Pigeon (April 4, 2023)
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh! (September 5, 2023)

The Pigeon also makes cameos in many works by Mo Willems, most notably the Elephant & Piggie series.

This series demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: One of the birds in "The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster" wears a watch.
  • Adaptation Distillation: "The Pigeon Needs a Bath Book" is "The Pigeon Needs a Bath" reissued as a soft bath book that can be taken into the bathtub without being damaged. It cuts much of the story, including the bus driver saying that the Pigeon is filthy, as well as the scene in which the flies won't go near the Pigeon.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The animated version of The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! from Scholastic and Weston Woods has an added scene at the end. In it, The Pigeon sees the Duckling with the second cookie, without nuts, that he got after asking politely for it. He gets angry that the Duckling got another cookie and thinks that the Duckling's cookie, without nuts, looks tastier than the one with nuts that the Duckling gave him.
  • Angrish: The pigeon throws an all out temper tantrum upon learning that his name isn't in the title of "The Duckling gets a Cookie?!"
    Pigeon: (sobbing) I..I just wanna be in the title. Is THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?! HUH?! IS IT?!! WHY THE-ASGFJFFEGJHEEJH
  • Baby Talk: In "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School", the Pigeon says that he wishes he was a "little-itty-bitty-not-going-to-school-baby-waybie pigeon".
  • Bad Liar: The Pigeon, full stop. He often makes claims when the reverse is quite plainly true.
  • Baths Are Fun: In "The Pigeon Needs a Bath!," the Pigeon is very dirty and smelly and needs a bath, but doesn't want to have one at first. Once he finally comes around, however, he finds that he loves it and stays in it for at least ten hours.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The pigeon wants a puppy! However, when he gets one, it's way too big for a bird to keep for a pet.
  • Big "NO!": The audience's expected response to the Pigeon in "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" and "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" is to yell, "NO!". The Pigeon himself does this in "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?"
  • Big "WHY?!": When lamenting that the Duckling got a cookie just by asking, while he never gets what he asks for in "The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?", the Pigeon yells, "Why? WHY!? WHY!?".
  • Big Word Shout: The Pigeon yells a one-word sentence in every book, inevitably filling up a two-page spread while doing so.
  • Blatant Lies: The Pigeon would try all kinds of shenanigans to convince the reader to let him do what he wants, from telling them that "their moms would let him do it" to outright bribing the reader with 5 bucks.
    • The Pigeon's claim to not be tired as he yawns and forces himself to stay awake.
    • The Pigeon's claim in The Pigeon Needs a Bath! that he doesn't need one, even though he has obvious visible stink lines and even flies are avoiding him.
  • Buffy Speak: In "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!", when complaining about never getting what he asks for, the Pigeon calls himself the "asking-est pigeon in town".
  • Bunnies for Cuteness: Exploited in "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", when the Pigeon whips out a toy bunny and claims it wants to stay up late as well, saying, "You can't say no to a bunny, can you?".
  • Call-Back: As part of his rant during "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?", the Pigeon brings up being told "No!" during the events of past books.
  • The Cameo: Duckling and Knuffle Bunny make cameos as bath toys in "The Pigeon needs a Bath!"
  • Catching Some Z's: At the end of "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", the Pigeon snores with Z's coming out of his mouth.
  • The Compliance Game: Attempted in "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", where the Pigeon is trying to persuade the viewer to let him drive the bus. At one point, he says, "Let's play 'Drive the Bus'," but this doesn't work.
  • Continuity Nod: Some of the items on the Pigeons list of things he wants in "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" are "drive a bus" and "a driver's license" (referencing "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus"), "eat a hot dog all by myself" (referencing "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog" in which he had to share one with the Duckling), and "stay up late" (referencing "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late").
  • Copycat Mockery: In "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog", the Pigeon is frustrated with the Duckling interrogating him on what hot dogs taste like and calling himself a "curious bird", so he mocks him by saying, "I'm a curious bird! What do they taste like? Blah, blah, blah!".
  • Death Glare: In "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog", the Pigeon scowls at the Duckling for asking him what hot dogs taste like.
  • The Determinator: As Mo Willems notes in an interview available on the DVD of the animated version of "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", determination is the Pigeon's defining characteristic and something that he shares in common with real-life pigeons.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The pigeon thinks puppies are adorable and wants one for himself. Evidently he's only ever seen them in pictures because he's totally unprepared for the size of a puppy compared to a small bird. He doesn't learn his lesson, either, as by the end he's decided he doesn't want a puppy after all. He wants a walrus.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The Pigeon is a pigeon named Pigeon, or "the Pigeon."
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: In "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!", when the Pigeon is listing the reasons he's scared to go to school, he says, "What if there is MATH? Or numbers?".
  • Everyone Has Standards: The three flies in "The Pigeon Needs a Bath" think the pigeon is too dirty even though they're flies.
  • Exercise Excuse: When trying to pretend he's not tired in "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", the Pigeon claims he was not yawning, but stretching.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: When the Pigeon starts to become tired in "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", he gets bags under his eyes.
  • Fake Interactivity: The answer to the Pigeon is always "No!".
  • First Day of School Episode: "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!" is about the Pigeon being reluctant about starting school.
  • Fish Eyes: In "The Duckling Gets a Cookie", the Pigeon has these when he directly faces the viewer during his rant when he talks about asking for a French Fry Robot.
  • Food Porn: Done with a hot dog in "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!", when both birds (Pigeon and Duckling) find the hot dog incredibly delicious.
  • "Getting Ready for Bed" Plot: "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" is all about the reader trying to convince the pigeon to go to bed.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: The Pigeon falls asleep on the floor at the end of "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!".
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!", the Pigeon is jealous of the Duckling, since he gets a cookie while the Pigeon doesn't, and the Duckling gets what he asked for, while he never does.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Pigeon is prone to yelling and throwing tantrums.
  • Idea Bulb: In "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School", he thinks that there should be a place to practice before starting school, with "experts to help you", other birds to mingle with, and a playground. Then, a lightbulb goes off over his head as he says, "Oh, that is school".
  • Insane Troll Logic: One excuse the Pigeon has for staying up late in "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" is that it's daytime in China.
  • It's All About Me: This sort of thinking is possibly the Pigeon's most defining characteristic and generally what drives his behavior, especially things such as complaining about not appearing in the title of The Duckling Gets a Cookie? and slipping himself into the Elephant & Piggie titles.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: In "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!", the Pigeon says he doesn't need to go to school as he already knows anything. However, when the reader asks him a question, he doesn't know the answer. He then claims he knows almost anything.
  • Living Toys: In the Pigeon's dream at the end of "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", the toy bunny has come alive and is eating hot dogs with him.
  • Manchild: The Pigeon, who throws temper tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants.
  • Medium Awareness: On the title page of The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, the Pigeon urges readers "WAIT! Don't read that title!" and is seen dropping his head and stating "Too late. Rats..." at the start of the story.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Played with in "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?" The Duckling gets a nuts-and-chocolate cookie from the reader. The Pigeon becomes jealously enraged, only to be genuinely surprised when the Duckling gives it to him. After the Pigeon leaves, the Duckling asks for a cookie without nuts.
  • Noodle Incident: In "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?", the Pigeon refers to being repeatedly turned down when he asks for a French Fry Robot or his own personal iceberg. No story so far has shown either of these happening, or what'd he'd even do with those.
  • No Fourth Wall: The reader is encouraged to talk back to the characters, especially in yelling "No!" to the Pigeon.
  • Not a Morning Person: In "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!", the Pigeon claims that he's bad in the morning to get out of going to school, since school hours start in the morning. However, it's unclear if this is actually true, since he has lied to get out of doing things before.
  • Overly Long Gag: The cartoon adaptation for "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" has the Pigeon yawn for a whopping 50 seconds.
  • Pesky Pigeons: Downplayed. The Pigeon constantly tries to convince the reader into giving him what he wants and throws temper tantrums when he is denied. However, it's done in such a way that keeps him a loveable scamp, rather than an outright nuisance.
  • The Pig-Pen: Pigeon becomes one in "The Pigeon Needs a Bath!" The smell becomes so bad, not even the flies would go near him!
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh!, the Pigeon decides that he'd rather not drive the sleigh after learning that he'd be spending time with large smelly reindeer. He declares "FOR! GET! IT!"
  • Questioning Title?: One book is called "The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?".
  • Russian Reversal: In The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!, the Pigeon states that the question is not will he be ready for the roller coaster but rather will it be ready for him.
  • Shaped Like Itself: When the Duckling asks if a hot dog tastes like chicken, the Pigeon yells, "IT JUST TASTES LIKE A HOT DOG, OKAY!?".
  • Singing in the Shower: The Pigeon sings in the bathtub in "The Pigeon Needs a Bath".
  • Sweet Tooth: On the list of things the Pigeon wants in "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" are "candy" and "more candy", and in "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!", he becomes steamed at not getting a cookie.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: What the Duckling wonders a hot dog tastes like. At one point, he asks if it tastes of chicken.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Despite what he says, the Pigeon sometimes gets what he wants...though in one instance, he quickly backpedals on it (see Wanting Is Better Than Having below.) "The Duckling Gets A Cookie?" plays this straight by having the Duckling give the Pigeon the cookie.
  • Unsound Effect:
    • When the Pigeon yawns in "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!", it's written as "YAWN!".
    • When the Duckling flaps his wings in "The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!", it's written as "flappy flip flap".
  • Vanity License Plate: In '"Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh!'', Santa's sleigh has a license plate reading "HOX3." (Ho x 3 - i.e. "Ho ho ho.")
  • Visible Odor: In The Pigeon Needs a Bath, one of the ways you can tell is the visible stink lines depicted on him on the pages where he insists he doesn't have a smell.
    Pigeon: What smell? (sniffing himself) I don't smell anything! And if I do— it' s very normal smell. For a pigeon.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Happens when the Pigeon obsesses about getting a puppy, only to discover it's a lot bigger and messier than he had expected.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School", the Pigeon claims that the unknown "stresses [him] out".
  • Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer: In The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, the Pigeon goes on a rant after learning that the Duckling got a cookie, finally shouting "WHY DID YOU GET THAT COOKIE!?!" When the Duckling replies "So I could give it to you," he thrusts one of his wings at him and shouts "AND ANOTHER THING—" before finally what the Duckling just said hits him. "Hubba-Whaa?!?"
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: This is the Pigeon's reaction, word for word, to the roller coaster in The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!, which turns out to be a pathetic little putt-putt affair riding along a straight line, rather than anything really worthy of the name "roller coaster." However, when asked if he wants to go again, he immediately agrees.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dont Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus


The Pigeon Has to Go to School

The title of the animation (and book on which this was adapted from) is "The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!" in case you somehow didn't get that from watching this.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / TitleDrop

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