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Review: ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App!’ for iOS

This app was released late last week as the iTunes “App of the Week.”

Is there any doubt that this pigeon has fans?

Screen shot from 'Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App' (Willems) Disney Digital Books

Title: Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App!
Author: Mo Willems
Published and Developed by: Hyperion Books for Children with Small Planet Digital
Platform: iOS, requires 3.1.3 or later
Version: 1.0
Price: $6.99

PreS-Gr 1-It is probably not hyperbole to call Mo Willems a genius. His drawing style is understated yet infinitely expressive. His stories have been compared to Samuel Beckett’s, his dialogue to Harold Pinter’s. And he makes children and adults laugh.

A consistent theme in Willems’s work is his disregard for the so-called “fourth wall.” His characters routinely speak directly to readers, soliciting our intervention and indeed handing narrative power over to us. The aptly named Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive This App gives readers even more control. There’s an animated story— “Don’t Let the Pigeon [Do Something]”—presented three ways: as a passive listening experience; with multiple-choice fill-in-the-blank viewer responses (touch selected); and as a Mad Lib for which the user records his or her voice.

In response to a question, a small child might make the pigeon beg to be allowed to eat candy or to jump on the bed. The pigeon will try to bribe the child for permission to do so with a truck full of the viewer’s favorite snack or a round of his or her favorite game (both provided earlier by the child). Up to six stories of these user-created stories can be saved in a “vault” and replayed.

This app is also pretty entertaining for adults. (After the kids go to bed, a grownup might get the pigeon to admit his desire to quit his job and move to Fiji or bet his paycheck on mixed martial arts fighting.) And it’s consistent with Willems’s commitment to entertaining parents as well as children—”playing to the orchestra” as he puts it.

There’s also a “Draw With Mo” feature. With Willems’s guidance, anyone can draw a fairly passable pigeon, which then appears in the story as a “priceless piece of art.” Users can also snap a photo of the image to save on their devices.

However. While viewers can use the screen to draw whatever they like, the only drawing exercise is the pigeon. And there’s only the one Mad Lib story. Making this an app that is fun for an hour or two, an app to share with friends a few times, but not one that contains enough variety to sustain long-term interest. Given the low cost of most iPad apps, it may seem petty to quibble. But the Pigeon’s app debut, while clever and elegant, is thin.-Paula Willey, Pink Me