Abandoned in Queens, a white human infant was rescued and raised by a flock of pigeons; now it’s her turn to rescue them.
Occupying an old dovecote on an abandoned factory roof, Coo’s flock survives on a dumpster’s stale bagels and doughnut crumbs, nesting on shredded newspaper and plastic bags. Coo earns her keep shooing predators away. When Burr, the flock member responsible for her survival, is savaged by a hawk, Coo, who speaks only pigeon (represented as pidgin English), descends to the ground for the first time in order to seek Tully, a human woman (likely also white) who feeds pigeons, restoring injured ones to health. Tully takes Burr and gives Coo her hat, scarf, and food, but she fails to persuade the girl—thin, dirty, clothed in plastic—to come too. Starvation threatens the flock when their dumpster disappears. Again, Coo braves the human world; this time, she lets Tully bring her home, where she finds Burr—alive and healed but permanently flightless. Learning English, Burr and a human friend help Coo adapt. When forces attacking city pigeons threaten her old flock, Coo mounts a desperate rescue. Despite a compelling setting and engaging characters, jarring contradictions hobble this debut. Dumpster diving and scavenging nest materials are detailed with grim realism; bird (and human) droppings are mentioned once. Fantasy’s soft focus blurs the hard issues raised—child abandonment, the scourge and plight of urban birds—diminishing their impact.
Lovers of animal fantasy may flock to it, but it’s not likely to win over genre skeptics. (Fantasy. 8-12)