JULY 23:

  • Happy birthday Margaree King Mitchell (Uncle Jed’s Barbershop), Robert Quackenbush (Henry’s Awful Mistake), and Patricia Coombs (Dorrie and the Haunted Schoolhouse).
  • In 1881 the FĂ©dĂ©ration Internationale de Gymnastique is founded, the worlds oldest international sports federation. More than a hundred years later, in 1996, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, know as “The Magnificent Seven” wins team gold for the first time ever. Read The Greatest Gymnast Of All by Stuart J. Murphy, illustrated by Cynthia Jabar.
  • On this day in 1914 Austria and Hungary issue an ultimatum to Serbia after assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, sowing the seeds of World War I. Read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson.
  • In 1973, President Richard Nixon refuses to release tapes of White House conversations relevant to the Watergate investigation. Read So You Want To Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small.

Today is National Hot Dog Day, and July is National Hot Dog Month. So it seems a good time to focus on hot dogs, one of America’s favorite and “most patriotic” foods according to promoters.

Although the book of the day seems like a natural for publication, Mo Willems’s first book about the pigeon, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, was rejected again and again. Fortunately, he had an agent who believed in him, Marcia Wernick of Wernick & Pratt Agency. She thought he had all the right stuff to be “a hot dog” in the children’s book world. Finally, she found a new editor, hunting for projects, who was willing to take a chance on this funny and offbeat story.

Once Mo Willems got published, wild enthusiasm for his books took over. Some of his titles such as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny, and the book of the day, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! seem destined to sit along side Dr. Seuss on the picture book classics shelf.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! opens with endpapers depicting multiple hot dogs in a style reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans. A pigeon and a duckling spy a hot dog, but pigeon picks it up first, ready to chomp into his discovery. “Is that a hot dog?” whispers the ducking. And so the two battle each other for the treat—“Each morsel is a joy! A celebration in a bun!” shouts Pigeon. As Pigeon struggles with his conscience, he gets louder and louder, but the duck remains softly persistent. In the end, they both discover the joy of sharing.

Mo Willems brings his years of television animation work to developing a clear story and dynamic action from page to page for young readers ages two through six. He utilizes all parts of this fabulously funny book to extend the story. On the back cover Pigeon holds up his reviews for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and comments on them—“Can those guys at The Horn Book review or what?”

Certainly, reading the book of the day will make everyone want to celebrate National Hot Dog Day. I, myself, am off to get one right now!

Here’s a page from The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!:


Originally posted July 23, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Birds, Food, Humor, Imagination
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!


  1. suzi w. says:

    Not sure when it started, but my library has celebrated Hot Dog Day since before I started working there. We used to celebrate it ON Hot Dog Day, but now we have moved it to the day before our Storytelling Festival, because the tents are set up, making it easier for folks to sit and eat. It’s one event that used to be run by the Children’s Dept, but now is really run by the Administration dept. b/c it gives our PR guy and our accountant a chance to grill!

    We sell hot dogs for 25 cents, similar low prices for chips, drinks, and we usually have Rita’s ice. It’s probably the most affordable lunch around!

    Sadly, this year, I will miss the event, due to my sister’s wedding.

    Thanks for highlighting this day–not enough people know about it. :)

    I remember when The Pigeon came on the scene. I was not impressed until I heard it read aloud. And then I was hooked.

  2. Mrs. O says:

    My first graders LOVE LOVE LOVE these books and so do I ! The humor works at both levels – children’s and adult’s. As an adult, you can see that the Pigeon is very similar to a young child – his mannerisms, his moods, etc. And the students just love it because I make sure to exaggerate the Pigeon’s characteristics. I think “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy” is probably my favorite book, but ALL of them are humorous and wonderful.

    When we go to the school library after I’ve read a “Pigeon” book to the students, there is a mad rush for them to see who can grab one off the shelf the fastest ! (same thing with Junie B. books LOL), so I know I have chosen successfully !

    And now, I’m off to grab a hot dog too ! ;)

  3. Jory Hearst says:

    I’m going to take Pigeon out for a hot dog with Elephant & Piggie, and then we’ll all grab ice cream afterwards. Mo Willems’ latest Elephant & Piggie book (these are my favorite of all of his series) is called “Should I Share My Ice Cream?” and although we’re starting to see some repeating tropes/lines with E&P, it’s still as hysterical, yet loveable as many of the others. So hot dog AND an ice cream for another hot summer day to honor all of my Mo Willems favorites!

  4. My kids and I can’t eat hot dogs anymore without bantering this entire book back and forth at each other… leaving Daddy (who isn’t there for most of our storytimes) pretty bewildered!

  5. Anita says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Jory: I particularly like the Ice Cream/Hot Dog tribute. I hear Bubbling Brook call…..

  6. Erin Gale says:

    Mo Willems books are such a gift to have in the classroom! My first and second graders love them and even struggling readers are not intimidated when picking up these books, because he uses a small amount of words on each page, making it easier for young readers to digest. He keeps readers hooked and laughing, while writing at a level that is accessible for beginners. One of my challenges as a teacher is finding books that my students can read and also enjoy. His Elephant and Piggie books are also great for partner reading or readers theater, as the parts are very clearly separated and even color coded! It is such a treat to find books that are truly hilarious and accessible(though he does throw a few big words in there, my students are often so motivated to read that they just memorize these large words!).

  7. Lisa C says:

    A friend gave me this book when my kids were small. I looked at the cover and was not interested in reading it. However, my toddler “read” it over and over, and I joined her. I enjoy the smaller pigeon most of all; he’s quite crafty. The pigeon books are right up there with Moo, Baa, La, La, La (Boynton) for picture book lines that still get repeated in my house of teenagers.

  8. Ann T says:

    Mo Willems knows how to write fun books! This one in particular is fun for me… one day, about 7 years ago, while at Siesta Key in Sarasota, FL with my Mom and daughters, a pigeon, somewhat like the one in the book- snatched my Mom’s hotdog out of her hand just as she was about to take a bite! Talk about silly! Pigeons sure do like hot dogs!

  9. Katie says:

    It amazes me how much Mo Willems can convey with such relatively simple drawings. I enjoy using his books with my first graders when we study the comprehension skill of inferring. There is much to infer from the expressions that he is able to create in his characters. The librarian at my school teaches all of the Kindergarten students to draw “Pigeon” from Mo’s books and the students love that they can successfully draw a character from books that they enjoy.

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