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ALEX THE PARROT by Stephanie Spinner


No Ordinary Bird

by Stephanie Spinner & illustrated by Meilo So

Age Range: 5 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86846-7
Publisher: Knopf

Irene Pepperberg's African gray parrot learned to speak and understand English so well he changed both public and scientific beliefs about animal communication and cognition.

Named Alex, for Avian Learning EXperiment, the parrot was randomly acquired from a pet shop for graduate student Pepperberg’s research. Spinner deftly summarizes the next 30 years of his training, gradual learning and public attention, ending with his untimely death in 2007. The author weaves in information about other talking animals: Clever Hans, the horse who read his trainer's unconscious cues, and the signing apes Washoe and Koko. She concludes with some outcomes of Pepperberg’s studies and her current research. But it is Alex's story, told with admiration and acceptance, that is the essence of this appealing title. Organized topically into short chapters, the chronology of his life remains clear. So's illustrations, done with colored ink and pencils, watercolors and gouache, show parrots in the wild and the pet store and, especially, Alex in action. Sometimes his words appear in colorful speech bubbles. These images, set directly on the white pages, above, below or alongside the text, filling an opposing page or bleeding across the fold, emphasize Alex’s personality but also add to readers’ understanding of the research work.

Bird lovers will be charmed. (author's note) (Informational picture book. 5-10)