Award-winning Canadian newspaper journalist Sarah Hampson has published her first picture book and it’s one that celebrates diversity and promotes respect for others. In this slight story, Dr. Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who knows his way around the big city. He’s familiar with all the best perches, park bench views, and statues – he sits only on the heads and never the shoulders. But Dr. Coo feels uneasy about the city’s human dwellers. He calls a meeting with his fellow bird friends to discuss the obvious problem: pigeons don’t receive the same enthusiasm from humans as bluebirds, cardinals, or robins. As one character puts it, “We pigeons get no respect.”
Kass Reich provides emotionally engaging artwork – from a bird’s-eye view, of course – which illustrates the possible reasons for the humans’ displeasure, from blocking a taxi on a city street to flying over a hot dog vendor’s cart and annoying his customers. Dr. Coo insists pigeons weren’t always looked down upon and referred to as “rats with wings.” His research shows that in ancient Greece pigeons carried news of the Olympic games, and during wars pigeons delivered medicine to men on battlefields. In an effort to regain the species’ dignity, Dr. Coo leads a protest, encouraging the birds to abandon the city. They are missed almost immediately and negotiations are undertaken for a speedy return home.
While the story is set in New York City, it should resonate with children from most locales and will be a welcome addition to classroom lessons about respect. According to the last line of the book, “When you are loved you can love in return.”