If ever a children’s book seemed well-suited for Apple’s iOS devices, it would be Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. That book from multiple Caldecott Honor winner Mo Willems—and indeed, all the books in the Don’t Let the Pigeon series—offers silly, interactive fun for kids and enough sly humor for their parents, too. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the mobile version—Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App from Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications—would offer its own measure of interactivity.
Built for both the iPhone and iPad, the Pigeon app features the same basic story but changes enough of the details Mad Libs-style to keep things fresh. Variety also comes in the form of different story modes geared at different reading levels. In basic mode, the app generates a story for you, with a read-along option that helps young readers brush up on their skills. In another mode—again aimed at young readers—the app presents tappable options for changing elements of the Pigeon story. But it’s the Big Pigeon option that should really appeal to kids—this mode asks you questions and records your answers to be incorporated into the final story.
The resulting stories are usually a blast and certainly in keeping with the spirit of the Don’t Let the Pigeon series. (If a story strikes your fancy, the app gives the option of saving up to six in a bookshelf-style interface.) That said, it is the same story even with the details changed here and there. That’s not likely to bother young kids who will be delighted by the app’s silliness, but older children will probably notice some repetition after a while.
As interactive as the Pigeon app is—in addition to changing elements of the story, you also shake your iPhone or iPad at the start of the story to send the pigeon bouncing around the screen—it probably could find other ways to take advantage of the iOS’s touch interface. Many readings of The Monster at the End of This Book have taught my daughter that if she taps Grover at the right moment, he’ll do something funny; when using the Pigeon app, she also tried touching the screen, and was a little disappointed that the Pigeon didn’t react to her taps.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App also includes a drawing mode, highlighted by a tutorial where Mo Willems shows you how to draw the eponymous pigeon. But you needn’t restrict yourself to just recreating the pigeon—you can draw anything you like on the blank canvas, and, in an especially clever touch, your drawing will get incorporated into the Pigeon story. You can only draw in black-and-white, and you can’t change the width of the lines. A few more options here would have been welcome additions.
While there’s certainly room for this app to grow, that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App is a fairly polished 1.0 release that will delight both kids and their parents. Fans of Mo Willems’s books will certainly enjoy this mobile offering, while newcomers can get to know The Pigeon in all his flustered glory.
[Macworld.com editor Philip Michaels is just biding his time until Knuffle Bunny hits the iPad.]