Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review - Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest
by Sarah Hampson
illustrated by Kass Reich
Date: 2018
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

Dr. Archibald Coo, an erudite big-city pigeon, is tired of the way people treat him and the other pigeons. They're always being shooed and swatted, and they're never admired the way the other birds are. As Dr. Coo tells his pigeon friends: ?It wasn't always this way.? In ancient times, pigeons were known to accompany the gods. They brought news of the Olympic Games to all of ancient Greece. And more recently, they delivered messages and medicine to soldiers on battlefields. They were heroes! Surely, Dr. Coo reasons, pigeons can find a way to earn the admiration of people once again. And he's got just the bold plan to do it.

Award-winning journalist Sarah Hampson's picture book debut is a celebration of the diversity inherent in a big city and a lesson on how looking for the good in others is the best way to get along with them. Through her activist pigeons, she offers a child-friendly example of how to affect change, and shows how cooperation and compromise are the keys for diverse groups to harmoniously coexist --- a topical subject. With soft lines and a warm palette, Kass Reich's illustrations bring a fresh pigeon's-eye perspective to New York's inhabitants and cityscapes. This book could be used to spark classroom discussions on respecting differences, working out disagreements, or stepping up to counter injustice, all important subjects for the budding self-awareness and personal development of young children. It also aligns with character education lessons on self-respect, initiative and inclusiveness.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a moderately entertaining picture book, told from the point of view of pigeons, with clever writing and decent illustrations. However, it does require the reader to suspend disbelief, and the protest itself--once it gets going--has one major flaw.

The pigeons are having a discussion one day, and they realize that they haven't been treated very nicely by humans lately. In times past, they were much more respected. They were valued in Ancient Greece, and even used to deliver messages and medicines during times of war. But more recently, they've just been viewed as a nuisance. People call them names, swing umbrellas at them, and even try to run them down with their cars! So the pigeons decide to, basically, go on strike.

That's plausible in a fantastic sort of way, right? But the problem comes during the protest itself. The pigeons all disappear from the city. The humans are flummoxed. There's nobody to eat their stale bread! Dr. Coo shows up at the mayor's office with a note containing the pigeons' demands. Humans and pigeons agree to live side by side. The book ends with the pigeons dropping notes of love into the crowds of people.

First, how can pigeons write letters? At that point, the pigeons had cut off all contact with humans... who are presumably the only ones who can wield a pen to write a letter. Second, who was attaching all the notes to the pigeons' legs? Again, humans would've been a necessary part of the equation, but it's sort of implied that the pigeons did it themselves. (I think it would've been fun--and slightly more plausible--if we'd seen Dr. Coo pecking away at a typewriter to write his letter. As it is, though, I'm having trouble suspending disbelief.)

This isn't a bad book, and I like how it did address the more positive aspects of the human/pigeon relationship in history. The rest, though, is a little too fanciful and unrealistic for my taste. If you're going to anthropomorphize birds, you can't do it halfway; it just makes for confusion.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

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