n

 

 

Do you have little ones at your home that are constantly asking, begging, pleading to go somewhere specifically or wanting something to eat or buy? Everyone who has experienced the passions of a 3 or 4 year old will identify with this incredibly simple, yet convincing, picture book. "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus", by Mo Willems, just won the Caldecott Honor for 2004 and upon first glance you'll easily recognize the unique nature of this book. The drawings are more like cartoon caricatures with one or two drawings on each page.  The inside covers will immediately draw the reader into the story because you'll see many renderings of pigeons sitting at the wheels of buses.  But, what you'll easily recognize is that it's the same pigeon in many different poses.  The next page is a picture of a man in uniform and he's looking at you.  The bubble above him states that he needs to leave for a little while and "...Oh and remember: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!"

n

What you're in for is a wild ride of appeals from this feathered friend. The next thirteen pages are filled with simple pleas to let him drive the bus.  But beware!  He'll say anything to try and convince you that it's okay for him to get behind the steering wheel.  Some of these petitions include the standby phrases that kids from all over use in order to get something they want: "I'll be your best friend", "How 'bout I give you five bucks?", "No fair!" and "I bet your mom would let me."  Each plea becomes more demanding until the words are very large, very orange and seemingly screaming off the page: "Let me drive the bus!!!" Now, the extraordinary thing is you feel sorry for this pitiful pigeon and wonder how this book will end on such a sad note.  But, don't give up, because things suddenly change for the bird.  You'll just have to read it and find out. This is a delightful book for youngsters ages 3 to 8 that begs to be read aloud.  But, be prepared for many vocal reactions as the bird poses questions to the reader!

n

"Olive's Ocean", by Kevin Henkes, is this year's Newbery Honor book.  This story delves into relationships of siblings, friends and families as 12 year old Martha sets out to begin writing her first novel.  The book opens with Martha discovering something about a classmate whom she and her friends had never befriended.  Olive had recently been killed in an auto accident while riding her bike.  Olive's mother brought a sheet of paper to Martha that she'd torn out of her daughter's journal.  When Martha read that Olive also wanted to be a writer and "...get to know Martha Boyle next year......the nicest person in my whole entire class", she was puzzled.  Why would Olive, someone she really didn't know or associate with, write that about her? Olive also wrote about her great desire to see the ocean.  Since Martha and her family were now packing to go see Godbee (Grandma), who lives by the ocean, she can't get Olive, or her request out of her mind.  It is as if they have bonded now that Olive has died. There is much majesty and eloquence in Mr. Henkes' writing style.  He has also illustrated how a writer gleans from his or her experience.  Each time Martha adds to her story, you discover how the additions are reflections from what she recently experienced during her day.  There are comparisons and similarities of her life as it is, as it once was, and what it's now becoming as she matures into a young woman.  I am always baffled when I read about something as unique yet elegant as this coming of age story about a girl and wonder how a man can grasp the knowledge of it.  But the author hits it right on target.  Martha becomes aware of her dear Godbee's health, her relationship with her brother and baby sister and her love interest in a neighbor as her stay on the ocean front comes to an end. There is only one shortcoming in the story and that has to do with 13 year old Jimmy's language. There is a little profanity which is unnecessary, especially when it's geared for ages 10 through 14.  However, it's brief and infrequent, making it less conspicuous.