Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App

When I heard on Twitter last year that Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems had been made into an app, I had to download it straight away. This is one of my children’s favourite books to share, and is one of the first they head for whenever we visit Grandad’s house (as he introduced us to the Pigeon books). In this story, the reader is asked by the driver to look after his bus while he’s gone, and not to let the pigeon drive it under any circumstances. But the pigeon is a cunning character and will use every trick in the book to try to get you to change your mind…

For me this is a great app because it draws children in to the storytelling, through customising the story, narrating it and then drawing the main character.

The app brilliantly brings the pigeon to life and captures its personality, and this is primarily down to Mo’s fantastic illustrations and lively narration. The artwork is already very simple, bright and cartoon-like and works well on the iPad.

The basic storyline runs variations on the theme “Don’t Let the Pigeon…” There are three options with increasing levels of creativity: Egg (no input: a story is chosen and read to you), Chick (you choose between options set out for you) and Big Pigeon (you record answers to questions set by the bus driver to create a story co-authored and co-narrated by you). We didn’t really use Egg, but had a lot of fun using Chick and especially Big Pigeon, as with this option you can include anything you can imagine. Don’t Let the Pigeon… Take a Bath? Eat all the Chocolate? Fly to the South Pole in a Hot Air Balloon? And inevitably at some point your child will come up with something to do with toilet humour. There is an option to save up to six of their stories to read again later.

Mr Tall’s pigeon

Collaboration by Mr Tall and mum

In addition to the story writing feature, one of the best elements of the app is the drawing tutorial with Mo Willems, in which he helps you to draw your own pigeon.

Mo is a brilliantly engaging tutor and uses lots of fun tricks and language to help kids draw. It is a really good feature for children like Mr Tall (aged 4) who don’t enjoy drawing because they get frustrated at not being able to do it “properly”.

With Mo’s help, he was able to draw a pigeon step by step. You also get an insight into how Mo draws, for example how the placement of the pupil in the eye changes the pigeon’s expression.

The downsides of the app? The parts of the story you can’t change can get repetitive with heavy use and there is no way to skip through any section of the app. However, this is really only a problem when used heavily in a short space of time, and if returned to later it will be fresh again. The price (£4.99/$6.99 at time of writing) is also on the high side but I do think it is worth it, particularly if you are a fan of Mo Willems.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App by Mo Willems, developed by Disney, compatible with  iPhone, iPod touch (2nd-4th generation) and iPad.  Available from!/id459749670?mt=8