CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 40. . . .June 15, 2018
Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest.
Sarah Hampson. Illustrated by Kass Reich.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2018.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.99.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
The conversation started out as it normally did. They cackled about the supply of corn kernels in the park. They nattered about the nearing of winter. They prattled about new perches.
But then, Hootie Claw dared to bring up something they all had been thinking for a long time.
“We pigeons get no respect!” he blurted. “Those humans down there” ----- Hootie pecked at the air to indicate the people below on the streets -----“they hate us. They shoo us away!”
“There, there,” cooed Vern, hopping a little closer to Hootie and nudging him with his wing. “Calm down.”
“Calm down?” hooted Hootie. “No one appreciates us! I’m the voice of the next-generation pigeon, and I’m not standing for it.
Oh, yes, he was in a flap.
“I know what Hootie means,” offered Dove softly. “When people see a bluebird, they sigh and get dreamy-eyed. They call them ‘little fellows.’
“If they hear a cardinal sing, …well that’s even worse! You’d think they’d never heard a bird before. And it’s the same with robins. They can’t wait for them to arrive.”
“But we’re just as beautiful!” She shook raindrops from her glossy coat and held her little head up high.
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon about town. He knows and loves his city, enjoying many a gargoyle, statue or park bench to roost upon. However, when he and his buddies get to talking, they are bemused as to why pigeons are held in such disregard. Folk attempt to run them down, shoo them away or compare them to rats. Knowledgeable Dr. Coo knows pigeons were once revered by the ancients and even used in warfare to deliver messages and medicine. He wants that respect back and has a plan to achieve it. In a peaceful protest, the pigeons disappear, and their loss is duly lamented by the human population! Whereupon, literate Dr. Coo sends a letter to the mayor in which he cites pigeon terms and conditions for their return. Once these are understood, there is great rejoicing and all parties live happily and lovingly ever after.
Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest is an attractive picture-book aimed at children aged 3-7. The text is simple and readable, and the art-work, in muted watercolors splashed with areas of brightness, is engaging. The pigeons are loveable, and there is a nice bird’s eye view of a busy city complete with many high rise buildings captured in lovely perspective. But, overall, the story is oversimplified and uses a self-conscious humor beyond a child’s comprehension (e.g. “I’m the voice of the next-generation pigeon.”)
Although the story does to some degree make children aware of tolerance, kindness and appreciating diversity, the pigeon is not the best messenger. For, while there are those who appreciate the pigeon’s iridescent plumage and the fact they stick around when many birds desert us in cold weather, there are more who see pigeons as bringers of disease and irritating poopers extraordinaire. Since pigeons can’t help their habits any more than people can, Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, with its negotiated message of love between all, is a bit of a fairy tale. If it is read as such, then the book is a pleasant lighthearted read with a tongue in cheek humor, but it does not go further.
Recommended with Reservations.
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian from Toronto, ON.
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