In something of a variant on Andersen’s “Ugly Duckling,” Cuckoo searches for someone who might understand him.
When the adorable Cuckoo hatches, his family members (obviously not cuckoos) say, “Too-too-weet!” But all he says back is “Cuckoo,” which alienates him from the others. So he bravely leaves to find understanding. Pages of fruitless encounters with animals and people saying different things bring the young bird no closer to companionship, so he goes to school to learn others’ languages. Unfortunately, he hasn’t the gift for others’ gab and is stymied in his efforts. In fact, “Cuckoo was exhausted. His brain hurt from all the learning.” He heads to a rooftop to relax, and from his perch he hears someone calling, “Cuckoo!” It turns out that this call doesn’t come from another bird like him but from a toddler’s cuckoo toy. Lo and behold, the toy has just about worn out, and when it breaks, Cuckoo flies through the window to assume its place. With the dedication announcing “Based on a true story. (Sort of),” readers are invited to speculate about the intended meaning behind Cuckoo’s adventure, but this remains elusive. This is not Andersen’s bird finding his own kind, and Cuckoo’s ultimate role as plaything reads like The Velveteen Rabbit subverted. The endearing, digitally rendered art outshines the story.
A sweet, if uneven, tale. (Picture book. 4-7)