A middle-grade adventure finds a Central Park pigeon who can talk in the care of precocious youngsters.
On a hot July morning, 12-year-old Jennifer Tindal and her brother, 11-year-old James, visit Central Park. While Mrs. Tindal studies at home for the bar exam, Jennifer watches James and his allergy-prone friend, Seth (nicknamed Sleepy because he takes a lot of medication), at the playground. It’s here that a pigeon speaks to her in a British accent. His name is Arthur Whitehair, and he’s tied to a fence by balloon string (“Oh, for a pair of hands!” he cried dramatically. “My kingdom for a pair of hands!”). “Give me a break,” Jennifer mutters, trying to ignore what she assumes is a prank. Eventually, she unties the string rather than see the bird hurt himself. Then a hawk attacks, yelling, “Give me that pigeon!” Jennifer, James, and Sleepy escape with Whitehair through the vast park, learning that the hawk, Malman, has been after his quarry for 180 years. Can this bizarre situation have anything to do with the dreams Jennifer’s been having about a monk who speaks to her in Latin? After all, Omnia causa fiunt means “Everything happens for a reason.” In this raucous jaunt through Manhattan’s canopied centerpiece, Rothman-Hicks and Hicks (Kate and the Kid, 2016, etc.) educate and entertain. Younger readers learn facts about birds, such as they “are safe in a flock because the whole group of them moving...at once confuses the predator.” The authors’ trim prose often captures the loveliness of specific Central Park areas, like the Ramble, “famous for its many trees and bushes and hills, and trails that twisted around like over-cooked spaghetti.” As the narrative opens up to include Jennifer’s wealthy classmate Kaytlyn and a kind, homeless man, Mr. Bags, the audience benefits from the exploration of as many perspectives as possible. Scenes involving Malman’s awful partner, Drescher, are just menacing enough. The mystery surrounding Whitehair and his nemesis receives a quirky buildup and a heartwarming resolution. Readers should welcome sequels.
A learned, laugh-out-loud New York City fantasy for all ages.