In the annals of nearsighted narcissism, this pigeon reigns supreme.
Scion of a famous family—“My brother is famous for sleeping.…My uncle is famous for having millions of girlfriends,” and Noah’s dove and a military messenger pigeon are among its forebears—this feathered legend in its own mind claims to be a “famous model.” It’s certain it’s the object of all zoo visitors’ eyes (not really, as audience cries of “elephant” in several languages and scripts indicate). To accommodate the imagined horde of fans, the bird poses on an elephant’s trunk and a crocodile’s jaw and then goes on to criticize a mandrill’s makeup, join diners at a picnic table, and spatter a passer-by with a generous “autograph.” “Luckily I am perfect just the way I am,” it coos in the block-lettered text accompanying Shaley’s muted, scribbly crayon-and–colored-pencil scenes. At last, taking the warnings of the other pigeons as jealous flapping, it marches heedlessly as ever into a lion’s open mouth. Just deserts? Not exactly, it turns out, as a final chalk-on-black spread depicts the pigeon rattling around inside the lion calling for “Lights!” and collapsing in boredom. Readers expecting a more naturalistic fate may be disappointed…or perhaps relieved. Shaley does not specifically gender her protagonist, but its neck’s white rings look an awful lot like draped pearls, implying via stereotype a female.
At least Maurice Sendak’s Pierre drew a lesson from his ingestion. (Picture book. 6-8)