Harry Holdsworth, nine, inherits a 40-year-old parrot from a great-uncle who was a professor of linguistics across the ocean in New York. Initially nonplussed by the bequest--since he's not interested in birds, knows that talking parrots only "parrot" without understanding, and fears he'll be stuck with the care of this one for decades to come--Harry is delighted to discover that Madison (Uncle George named his fourth parrot for the fourth President) not only talks with humor and erudition but understands more than most people, a secret Harry and his parents agree to keep to themselves in order to be free of publicity. The first half of the book is a delicious exploration of what it's like for a nice family to be augmented by a genial old parrot with a fund of gourmet recipes, a wicked cleverness at Monopoly and crossword puzzles, and the ability to do a perfect Bogart imitation. When burglars break in, Mad prevents a theft but is kidnapped; then, after several adventures complicated by his wish to keep his intelligence secret, he manages to contact Harry (collect) from a telephone booth and find his way home--but not before Dad has made the mistake of providing a substitute parrot, Fweddy, whose apparently unintelligent remarks are limited to such precious phrases as "Tebbly tebbly sowwy." Much as the Holdsworths have learned about not prejudging in their experiences with Mad, Fweddy has a couple of surprises for them, and so, still, does Mad, in this leisurely, charming fantasy. Although stingy center margins may invite spine cracking, this is otherwise an attractively designed book with plenty of white space and appropriately humorous line drawings. Children who enjoy Charlotte's Web or A Cricket in Times Square will love Mad--the British setting makes his Bogart imitations all the funnier. This would be great to read aloud.